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Rotating forces to Europe is "no substitute for permanent forward presence in building relationships or signaling our commitment" to NATO allies, US European Command boss Gen. Philip Breedlove said. "The security challenges in and around Europe are only growing sharper and more complicated," he told members of the House Armed Services Committee on Feb 25. EUCOM has cut forces and taken on more risk at a time when the US' ability to augment allies in key areas such as airlift, ISR, and sustainment is "more important now than at any time in recent history," he said. Due to sequestration and fiscal strain "our fundamental ability to deter and defeat in a timely and effective manner is less sure than it could be," Breedlove admitted. Within 18 hours of Russia's annexation of Crimea last year, Air Force fighters were deployed and operational in Poland. The only "reason that we could respond so quickly is that we were there—forward and ready," he said. Rotations such as the first theater security package of A-10s deployed earlier this year "can play a very important role" in buffing out European defenses, but only if they're "heel-to-toe and fully resourced," Breedlove said.