Defense Secretary Robert Gates in a speech commemorating VE Day called for closer scrutiny of defense spending. This part brought back memories to me:
Mr. Gates also took aim at the Pentagon bureaucracy. “Another category ripe for scrutiny should be overhead — all the activity and bureaucracy that supports the military mission,” he said, citing an official estimate that overhead makes up about 40 percent of the Pentagon budget.
My dad was a civilian employee of the US Army and on two occasions we lived in the Kaiserslautern Military Community, which at the time was and still is the largest American community outside of the US.
It is essentially a small American community relocated to another country. I graduated from Kaiserslautern American High School, which is now one of 19 schools in one of five districts in Europe. My high school was a full service school: buses picked up many of the students from the numerous outlying communities: Sembach, Ramstein (which now has its own high school), Miesau, Landstuhl, Fliegerstrasse and other outlying areas.
We had clubs and extracurricular activities. We had sports, drama club, speech contests, art classes, film classes, band classes, field trips, etc. and a full time faculty and administrative staff as well as substitute teachers.
In addition to the school, there were at least two base libraries, an Officer's Club, NCO Club, an extensive array of housing, gymnasia and pools not affiliated with the schools, commissaries, BX's and PX's, hospitals - including Landstuhl Hospital, the largest US military hospital outside of the US - and clinics, buses to take you around.
There were several movie theaters, churches (non-denominational), ball fields, any number of vehicles brought from the US (noticeable by their size and plates), at least one golf course, snack bars, Class VI (liquor stores) and any number of ways to pass the time.
During the time I lived there, the region had US Air Force Europe headquarters at Ramstein Air Force, Landstuhl Hospital, the 32nd Army Air Defense Command, the 15th MP Brigade (covering all of Germany), the US Army Medical Materiel Center for Europe (USAMMCE) in Einsiedlerhof, supplying medical supplies for facilities from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Oslo, a tactical reconnaissance and missile wing at Sembach AFB, Kaiserslautern Army Depot, Miesau Army Depot, the Rheinland-Pfalz Support District (RPSD) headquarters at Panzer Kaserne, as well as other facilities at Kleber Kaserne and Daenner Kaserne.
I worked two summers, one at Panzer Kaserne for RPSD and one at USAMMCE. Most of my coworkers were local nationals, i.e. Germans and the numbers were not insiginificant. When I finished high school and came back to the US, the government paid for the return of my personal effects.
I mention all this not in the way of making a value judgment, but in shedding a bit of light on the infrastructure and bureaucracy that this entails. I loved and treasured my time in Germany. I feel fortunate that I had the experience. I also appreciate the fact that it didn't come cheaply.