By CNN National Security Producer Jennifer Rizzo
The United States will withdraw two Army combat brigades from Europe in one of the first announcements of actual asset reductions as part of an effort to cut more than $400 billion from the defense budget over the next 10 years.
Reductions in troop levels in Europe had been expected after President Obama unveiled the Pentagon's new defense strategy this month that promised a leaner, cheaper military with a greater focus on the Pacific. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made the announcement about the withdrawal Thursday in an interview with the Defense Department press service.
About 80,000 troops are stationed in Europe - about 37,000 of which are with the U.S. Army. Four Army brigades are currently stationed in the region - three in Germany and one in Italy. One brigade is typically made up of 3,500 soldiers.
No announcements have been made on which brigades will be withdrawn and when the withdrawal will begin.
A strong U.S. presence will still be maintained in Europe by having units rotate in and out of the region, a move Panetta said he is excited about in the press service interview.
Panetta compared the rotational tactic of Army units to what the Special Operations Forces and the U.S. Marine Corps already do.
"Getting the Army to deploy to areas conducting exercises providing, most of all, a partnership with countries in Latin America, Africa, other countries where we can show the flag" is important, he said. "It will keep the ground forces very meaningful in the future."
Defense Department officials have had "thorough consultations" with European allies about the withdrawal, according to Capt. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman.
European leaders understand the need for the decision, senior defense officials traveling with Panetta said Thursday.