Drawdown: Improving U.S. and Global Security Through Military Base Closures Abroad

By David Vine, Patterson Deppen, and Leah Bolger, World BEYOND War, September 20, 2021

Executive Summary

Despite the withdrawal of U.S. military bases and troops from Afghanistan, the United States continues to maintain around 750 military bases abroad in 80 foreign countries and colonies (territories). These bases are costly in a number of ways: financially, politically, socially, and environmentally. U.S. bases in foreign lands often raise geopolitical tensions, support undemocratic regimes, and serve as a recruiting tool for militant groups opposed to the U.S. presence and the governments its presence bolsters. In other cases, foreign bases are being used and have made it easier for the United States to launch and execute disastrous wars, including those in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya. Across the political spectrum and even within the U.S. military there is growing recognition that many overseas bases should have been closed decades ago, but bureaucratic inertia and misguided political interests have kept them open.

Amid an ongoing “Global Posture Review,” the Biden administration has a historic opportunity to close hundreds of unnecessary military bases abroad and improve national and international security in the process.

The Pentagon, since Fiscal Year 2018, has failed to publish its previously annual list of U.S. bases abroad. As far as we know, this brief presents the fullest public accounting of U.S. bases and military outposts worldwide. The lists and map included in this report illustrate the many problems associated with these overseas bases, offering a tool that can help policymakers plan urgently needed base closures.

Fast facts on overseas U.S. military outposts

• There are approximately 750 U.S. military base sites abroad in 80 foreign countries and colonies.

• The United States has nearly three times as many bases abroad (750) as U.S. embassies, consulates, and missions worldwide (276).

• While there are approximately half as many installations as at the Cold War’s end, U.S. bases have spread to twice as many countries and colonies (from 40 to 80) in the same time, with large concentrations of facilities in the Middle East, East Asia, parts of Europe, and Africa.

• The United States has at least three times as many overseas bases as all other countries combined.

• U.S. bases abroad cost taxpayers an estimated $55 billion annually.

• Construction of military infrastructure abroad has cost taxpayers at least $70 billion since 2000, and could total well over $100 billion.

• Bases abroad have helped the United States launch wars and other combat operations in at least 25 countries since 2001.

• U.S. installations are found in at least 38 non-democratic countries and colonies.

The problem of U.S. military bases abroad

During World War II and the early days of the Cold War, the United States built an unprecedented system of military bases in foreign lands. Three decades after the Cold War’s end, there are still 119 base sites in Germany and another 119 in Japan, according to the Pentagon. In South Korea there are 73. Other U.S. bases dot the planet from Aruba to Australia, Kenya to Qatar, Romania to Singapore, and beyond.

We estimate that the United States currently maintains approximately 750 base sites in 80 foreign countries and colonies (territories). This estimate comes from what we believe to be the most comprehensive lists of U.S. military bases abroad available (see Appendix). Between fiscal years 1976 and 2018, the Pentagon published an annual list of bases that was notable for its errors and omissions; since 2018, the Pentagon has failed to release a list. We built our lists around the 2018 report, David Vine’s 2021 publicly available list of bases abroad, and reliable news and other reports.1

Across the political spectrum and even within the U.S. military there is growing recognition that many U.S. bases abroad should have closed decades ago. “I think we have too much infrastructure overseas,” the highest-ranking officer in the U.S. military, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Mark Milley, acknowledged during public remarks in December 2020. “Is every one of those [bases] absolutely positively necessary for the defense of the United States?” Milley called for “a hard, hard look” at bases abroad, noting that many are “derivative of where World War II ended.”2

To put the 750 U.S. military bases abroad in perspective, there are nearly three times as many military base sites as there are U.S. embassies, consulates, and missions worldwide — 276.3 And they comprise more than three times the number of overseas bases held by all other militaries combined. The United Kingdom reportedly has 145 foreign base sites.4 The rest of the world’s militaries combined likely control 50–75 more, including Russia’s two to three dozen foreign bases and China’s five (plus bases in Tibet).5

The cost of building, operating, and maintaining U.S. military bases abroad is estimated at $55 billion annually (fiscal year 2021).6 Stationing troops and civilian personnel at bases abroad is significantly more expensive than maintaining them at domestic bases: $10,000–$40,000 more per person per year on average.7 Adding the costs of personnel stationed abroad drives the total cost of overseas bases to around $80 billion or more.8 These are conservative estimates, given the difficulty of piecing together the hidden costs.

In terms of military construction spending alone — funds appropriated to build and expand bases overseas — the U.S. government spent between $70 billion and $182 billion between fiscal years 2000 and 2021. The spending range is so broad because Congress appropriated $132 billion in these years for military construction at “unspecified locations” worldwide, in addition to $34 billion clearly spent overseas. This budgeting practice makes it impossible to assess how much of this classified spending went to building and expanding bases overseas. A conservative estimate of 15 percent would yield an additional $20 billion, although a majority of the “unspecified locations” could be overseas. $16 billion more appeared in “emergency” war budgets.9

Beyond their fiscal costs, and somewhat counterintuitively, bases abroad undermine security in a number of ways. The presence of U.S. bases overseas often raises geopolitical tensions, provokes widespread antipathy toward the United States, and serves as a recruiting tool for militant groups like al Qaeda.10

Foreign bases also have made it easier for the United States to become involved in numerous aggressive wars of choice, from the wars in Vietnam and Southeast Asia to 20 years of “forever war” since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. Since 1980, U.S. bases in the greater Middle East have been used at least 25 times to launch wars or other combat actions in at least 15 countries in that region alone. Since 2001, the U.S. military has been involved in combat in at least 25 countries worldwide.11

While some have claimed since the Cold War that overseas bases help spread democracy, the opposite often appears to be the case. U.S. installations are found in at least 19 authoritarian countries, eight semi-authoritarian countries, and 11 colonies (see Appendix). In these cases, U.S. bases provide de facto support for undemocratic and often repressive regimes such as those that govern in Turkey, Niger, Honduras, and the Persian Gulf states. Relatedly, bases in the remaining U.S. colonies — the U.S. “territories” of Puerto Rico, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands — have helped perpetuate their colonial relationship with the rest of the United States and their peoples’ second class U.S. citizenship.12

As the “Significant Environmental Damage” column in Table 1 of the Appendix indicates, many of the base sites abroad have a record of damaging local environments through toxic leaks, accidents, the dumping of hazardous waste, base construction, and training involving hazardous materials. At these overseas bases, the Pentagon generally does not abide by U.S. environmental standards and frequently operates under Status of Forces Agreements that allow the military to evade host nation environmental laws as well.13

Given such environmental damage alone and the simple fact of a foreign military occupying sovereign land, it is unsurprising that bases abroad generate opposition almost everywhere they are found (see “Protest” column in Table 1). Deadly accidents and crimes committed by U.S. military personnel at overseas installations, including rapes and murders, usually without local justice or accountability, also generate understandable protest and damage the reputation of the United States.

Listing the bases

The Pentagon has long failed to provide adequate information for Congress and the public to evaluate overseas bases and troop deployments — a major facet of U.S. foreign policy. Current oversight mechanisms are inadequate for the Congress and the public to exercise proper civilian control over the military’s installations and activities overseas. For example, when four soldiers died in combat in Niger in 2017, many members of Congress were shocked to learn that there were approximately 1,000 military personnel in that country.14 Overseas bases are difficult to close once established, often due mainly to bureaucratic inertia.15 The default position by military officials seems to be that if an overseas base exists, it must be beneficial. Congress rarely forces the military to analyze or demonstrate the national security benefits of bases abroad.

Beginning in at least 1976, Congress began to require the Pentagon to produce an annual accounting of its “military bases, installations, and facilities,” including their number and size.16 Until Fiscal Year 2018, the Pentagon produced and published an annual report in accordance with U.S. law.17 Even when it produced this report, the Pentagon provided incomplete or inaccurate data, failing to document dozens of well-known installations.18 For example, the Pentagon has long claimed it has only one base in Africa — in Djibouti. But research shows that there are now around 40 installations of varying sizes on the continent; one military official acknowledged 46 installations in 2017.19

It is possible that the Pentagon does not know the true number of installations abroad. Tellingly, a recent U.S. Army-funded study of U.S. bases relied on David Vine’s 2015 list of bases, rather than the Pentagon’s list.20

This brief is part of an effort to increase transparency and enable better oversight of Pentagon activities and spending, contributing to critical efforts to eliminate wasteful military expenditures and offset the negative externalities of U.S. bases abroad. The sheer number of bases and the secrecy and lack of transparency of the base network make a complete list impossible; the Pentagon’s recent failure to release a Base Structure Report makes an accurate list even more difficult than in prior years. As noted above, our methodology relies on the 2018 Base Structure Report­ and reliable primary and secondary sources; these are compiled in David Vine’s 2021 data set on “U.S. Military Bases Abroad, 1776-2021.”

What’s a “base”?

The first step in creating a list of bases abroad is defining what constitutes a “base.” Definitions are ultimately political and often politically sensitive. Frequently the Pentagon and U.S. government, as well as host nations, seek to portray a U.S. base presence as “not a U.S. base” to avoid the perception that the United States is infringing on host nation sovereignty (which, in fact, it is). To avoid these debates as much as possible, we use the Pentagon’s Fiscal Year 2018 Base Structure Report (BSR) and its term “base site” as the starting point for our lists. Use of this term means that in some cases an installation generally referred to as a single base, such as Aviano Air Base in Italy, actually consists of multiple base sites — in Aviano’s case, at least eight. Counting each base site makes sense because sites with the same name are often in geographically disparate locations. For example, Aviano’s eight sites are in different parts of the municipality of Aviano. Generally, too, each base site reflects distinct congressional appropriations of taxpayer funds. This explains why some base names or locations appear several times on the detailed list linked in the Appendix.

Bases range in size from city-sized installations with tens of thousands of military personnel and family members to small radar and surveillance installations, drone airfields, and even a few military cemeteries. The Pentagon’s BSR says that it has just 30 “large installations” abroad. Some may suggest that our count of 750 base sites abroad is thus an exaggeration of the extent of U.S. overseas infrastructure. However, the BSR’s fine print shows that the Pentagon defines “small” as having a reported value of up to $1.015 billion.21 Moreover, the inclusion of even the smallest base sites offsets installations not included on our lists due to the secrecy surrounding many bases abroad. Thus, we describe our total of “approximately 750” as a best estimate.

We include bases in U.S. colonies (territories) in the count of bases abroad because these places lack full democratic incorporation into the United States. The Pentagon also classifies these locations as “overseas.” (Washington, D.C. lacks full democratic rights, but given that it is the nation’s capital, we consider Washington bases domestic.)

Note: This 2020 map depicts approximately 800 U.S. bases worldwide. Due to recent closures, including in Afghanistan, we have recalculated and revised our estimate downward to 750 for this brief.

Closing bases

Closing overseas bases is politically easy compared to closing domestic installations. Unlike the Base Realignment and Closure process for facilities in the United States, Congress does not need to be involved in overseas closures. Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush closed hundreds of unnecessary bases in Europe and Asia in the 1990s and 2000s. The Trump administration closed some bases in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. President Biden has made a good start by withdrawing U.S. forces from bases in Afghanistan. Our previous estimates, as recently as 2020, were that the United States held 800 bases abroad (see Map 1). Due to recent closures, we have recalculated and revised downward to 750.

President Biden has announced an ongoing “Global Posture Review” and committed his administration to ensuring that the deployment of U.S. military forces around the world is “appropriately aligned with our foreign policy and national security priorities.”22 Thus, the Biden administration has a historic opportunity to close hundreds of additional unnecessary military bases abroad and improve national and international security in the process. In contrast to former President Donald Trump’s hasty withdrawal of bases and troops from Syria and his attempt to punish Germany by removing installations there, President Biden can close bases carefully and responsibly, reassuring allies while saving vast sums of taxpayer money.

For parochial reasons alone, members of Congress should support closing installations overseas to return thousands of personnel and family members — and their paychecks — to their districts and states. There is well-documented excess capacity for returning troops and families at domestic bases.23

The Biden administration should heed growing demands across the political spectrum to close overseas bases and pursue a strategy of drawing down the U.S. military posture abroad, bringing troops home, and building up the country’s diplomatic posture and alliances.

Appendix

Table 1. Countries with U.S. Military Bases (full dataset here)
Country Name Total # of Base Sites Government Type Personnel Est. Military Construction Funding (FY2000-19) Protest Significant Environmental Damage
AMERICAN SAMOA 1 U.S. colony 309 $19.5 million No Yes
ARUBA 1 Dutch colony 225 $27.1 million24 Yes No
ASCENSION ISLAND 1 British colony 800 $2.2 million No Yes
AUSTRALIA 7 Full democracy 1,736 $116 million Yes Yes
BAHAMAS, THE 6 Full democracy 56 $31.1 million No Yes
BAHRAIN 12 Authoritarian 4,603 $732.3 million No Yes
BELGIUM 11 Flawed democracy 1,869 $430.1 million Yes Yes
BOTSWANA 1 Flawed democracy 16 UNDISCLOSED No No
BULGARIA 4 Flawed democracy 2,500 $80.2 million No No
BURKINA FASO 1 Authoritarian 16 UNDISCLOSED Yes No
CAMBODIA 1 Authoritarian 15 UNDISCLOSED Yes No
CAMEROON 2 Authoritarian 10 UNDISCLOSED Yes No
CANADA 3 Full democracy 161 UNDISCLOSED Yes Yes
CHAD 1 Authoritarian 20 UNDISCLOSED Yes No
CHILE 1 Full democracy 35 UNDISCLOSED No No
COLOMBIA 1 Flawed democracy 84 $43 million Yes No
COSTA RICA 1 Full democracy 16 UNDISCLOSED Yes No
CUBA 1 Authoritarian25 1,004 $538 million Yes Yes
CURAÇAO 1 Full democracy26 225 $27.1 million No No
CYPRUS 1 Flawed democracy 10 UNDISCLOSED Yes No
DIEGO GARCIA 2 British colony 3,000 $210.4 million Yes Yes
DJIBOUTI 2 Authoritarian 126 $480.5 million No Yes
EGYPT 1 Authoritarian 259 UNDISCLOSED No No
EL SALVADOR 1 Hybrid regime 70 $22.7 million No No
ESTONIA 1 Flawed democracy 17 $60.8 million No No
GABON 1 Authoritarian 10 UNDISCLOSED No No
GEORGIA 1 Hybrid regime 29 UNDISCLOSED No No
GERMANY 119 Full democracy 46,562 $5.8 billion Yes Yes
GHANA 1 Flawed democracy 19 UNDISCLOSED Yes No
GREECE 8 Flawed democracy 446 $179.1 million Yes Yes
GREENLAND 1 Danish colony 147 $168.9 million Yes Yes
GUAM 54 U.S. colony 11,295 $2 billion Yes Yes
HONDURAS 2 Hybrid regime 371 $39.1 million Yes Yes
HUNGARY 2 Flawed democracy 82 $55.4 million No No
ICELAND 2 Full democracy 3 $51.5 million Yes No
IRAQ 6 Authoritarian 2,500 $895.4 million Yes Yes
IRELAND 1 Full democracy 8 UNDISCLOSED Yes No
ISRAEL 6 Flawed democracy 127 UNDISCLOSED No No
ITALY 44 Flawed democracy 14,756 $1.7 billion Yes Yes
JAPAN 119 Full democracy 63,690 $2.1 billion Yes Yes
JOHNSTON ATOLL 1 U.S. colony 0 UNDISCLOSED No Yes
JORDAN 2 Authoritarian 211 $255 million Yes No
KENYA 3 Hybrid regime 59 UNDISCLOSED Yes No
KOREA, REPUBLIC OF 76 Full democracy 28,503 $2.3 billion Yes Yes
KOSOVO 1 Flawed democracy* 18 UNDISCLOSED No Yes
KUWAIT 10 Authoritarian 2,054 $156 million Yes Yes
LATVIA 1 Flawed democracy 14 $14.6 million No No
LUXEMBOURG 1 Full democracy 21 $67.4 million No No
MALI 1 Authoritarian 20 UNDISCLOSED Yes No
MARSHALL ISLANDS 12 Full democracy* 96 $230.3 million Yes Yes
NETHERLANDS 6 Full democracy 641 $11.4 million Yes Yes
NIGER 8 Authoritarian 21 $50 million Yes No
N. MARIANA ISLANDS 5 U.S. colony 45 $2.1 billion Yes Yes
NORWAY 7 Full democracy 167 $24.1 million Yes No
OMAN 6 Authoritarian 25 $39.2 million No Yes
PALAU, REPUBLIC OF 3 Full democracy* 12 UNDISCLOSED No No
PANAMA 11 Flawed democracy 35 UNDISCLOSED No No
PERU 2 Flawed democracy 51 UNDISCLOSED No No
PHILIPPINES 8 Flawed democracy 155 UNDISCLOSED Yes No
POLAND 4 Flawed democracy 226 $395.4 million No No
PORTUGAL 21 Flawed democracy 256 $87.2 million No Yes
PUERTO RICO 34 U.S. colony 13,571 $788.8 million Yes Yes
QATAR 3 Authoritarian 501 $559.5 million No Yes
ROMANIA 6 Flawed democracy 165 $363.7 million No No
SAUDI ARABIA 11 Authoritarian 693 UNDISCLOSED No Yes
SENEGAL 1 Hybrid regime 15 UNDISCLOSED No No
SINGAPORE 2 Flawed democracy 374 UNDISCLOSED No No
SLOVAKIA 2 Flawed democracy 12 $118.7 million No No
SOMALIA 5 Hybrid regime* 71 UNDISCLOSED Yes No
SPAIN 4 Full democracy 3,353 $292.2 million No Yes
SURINAME 2 Flawed democracy 2 UNDISCLOSED No No
SYRIA 4 Authoritarian 900 UNDISCLOSED Yes No
THAILAND 1 Flawed democracy 115 UNDISCLOSED No No
TUNISIA 1 Flawed democracy 26 UNDISCLOSED No No
TURKEY 13 Hybrid regime 1,758 $63.8 million Yes Yes
UGANDA 1 Hybrid regime 14 UNDISCLOSED No No
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES 3 Authoritarian 215 $35.4 million No Yes
UNITED KINGDOM 25 Full democracy 10,770 $1.9 billion Yes Yes
VIRGIN ISLANDS, U.S. 6 U.S. colony 787 $72.3 million No Yes
WAKE ISLAND 1 U.S. colony 5 $70.1 million No Yes

Notes on Table 1

Base sites: The Pentagon’s 2018 Base Structure Report defines a base “site” as any “specific geographic location that has individual land parcels or facilities assigned to it […] that is, or was owned by, leased to, or otherwise under the jurisdiction of a DoD Component on behalf of the United States.”27

Government type: Country government types are defined as either “full democracy,” “flawed democracy,” “hybrid regime,” or “authoritarian.” These are compiled from the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2020 “Democracy Index” unless otherwise indicated with an asterisk (citations for which can be found in the full dataset).

Military Construction Funding: These figures should be considered minimums. The data comes from official Pentagon budget documents submitted to Congress for military construction. The totals do not include additional funding in war (“overseas contingency operations”) budgets, classified budgets, and other budgetary sources that are, at times, not disclosed to Congress (e.g., when the military uses money appropriated for one purpose for military construction).28 Significant proportions of annual military construction funding go to “unspecified locations,” making it even harder to know how much the U.S. government is investing at military bases abroad.

Personnel estimates: These estimates include active-duty troops, national guard and reserve troops, and Pentagon civilians. Estimates are sourced from the Defense Manpower Data Center (updated March 31, 2021; and June 30, 2021 for Australia), unless otherwise noted with an asterisk (citations for which can be found in the full dataset). Readers should note that the military frequently provides inaccurate personnel data to disguise the nature and size of deployments.

Land estimates (available in full dataset): These derive from the Pentagon’s 2018 Base Structure Report (BSR) and are listed in acres. The BSR provides incomplete estimates and those base sites not included are marked “undisclosed.”

Recent/ongoing protests: This refers to the occurrence of any major protest, be it by a state, people, or organization. Only protests explicitly against U.S. military bases or a U.S. military presence in general are marked “yes.” Each country marked “yes” is evidenced and supported by two media reports since 2018. Those countries in which no recent or ongoing protests have been found are marked “no.”

Significant environmental damage: This category refers to air pollution, land pollution, water pollution, noise pollution, and/or flora or fauna endangerment tied to the presence of a U.S. military base. Military bases are, with rare exceptions, damaging to the environment given their storage and regular use of hazardous materials, toxic chemicals, dangerous weaponry, and other dangerous substances.29 Large bases tend to be especially damaging; thus, we assume that any large base has caused some environmental harm. A location marked “no” does not mean a base has caused no environmental damage but rather that no documentation could be found or that damage is assumed to be relatively limited.

Acknowledgments

The following groups and individuals, who are part of the Overseas Base Realignment and Closure Coalition, assisted in the conceptualization, research, and writing of and for this report: Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security; Codepink; Council for a Livable World; Foreign Policy Alliance; Institute for Policy Studies/Foreign Policy in Focus; Andrew Bacevich; Medea Benjamin; John Feffer; Sam Fraser; Joseph Gerson; Barry Klein; Jessica Rosenblum; Lora Lumpe; Catherine Lutz; David Swanson; John Tierney; Allan Vogel; and Lawrence Wilkerson.

The Overseas Base Realignment and Closure Coalition (OBRACC) is a broad group of military analysts, scholars, advocates, and other military base experts from across the political spectrum who support closing U.S. military bases overseas. For more information, see www.overseasbases.net.

David Vine is Professor of Anthropology at American University in Washington, DC. David is the author of three books about military bases and war, including the newly released The United States of War: A Global History of America’s Endless Conflicts, from Columbus to the Islamic State (University of California Press, 2020), which was a finalist for the 2020 L.A. Times Book Prize for History. David’s prior books are Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World (Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt, 2015) and Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military on Diego Garcia (Princeton University Press, 2009). David is a member of the Overseas Base Realignment and Closure Coalition.

Patterson Deppen is a researcher for World BEYOND War, where he compiled this report’s full list of U.S. military bases overseas. He serves on the editorial board at E-International Relations where he is co-editor for student essays. His writing has appeared in E-International Relations, Tom Dispatch, and The Progressive. His most recent article in TomDispatch, “America as a Base Nation Revisited,” offers a look at U.S. military bases overseas and their global imperial presence today. He received his masters in development and security from the University of Bristol. He is a member of the Overseas Base Realignment and Closure Coalition.

Leah Bolger retired in 2000 from the U.S. Navy at the rank of Commander after 20 years of active duty service. She was elected as the first woman President of Veterans For Peace (VFP) in 2012, and in 2013 she was selected to present the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Memorial Peace Lecture at Oregon State University. She serves as the President of World BEYOND War, an international organization dedicated to the abolition of war. Leah is a member of the Overseas Base Realignment and Closure Coalition.

World BEYOND War is a global nonviolent movement to end war and establish a just and sustainable peace. World BEYOND War was founded on January 1st, 2014, when co-founders David Hartsough and David Swanson set out to create a global movement to abolish the institution of war itself, not just the “war of the day.” If war is ever to be abolished, then it must be taken off the table as a viable option. Just as there is no such thing as “good” or necessary slavery, there is no such thing as a “good” or necessary war. Both institutions are abhorrent and never acceptable, no matter the circumstances. So, if we can’t use war to resolve international conflicts, what can we do? Finding a way to transition to a global security system that is supported by international law, diplomacy, collaboration, and human rights, and defending those things with nonviolent action rather than the threat of violence, is the heart of WBW. Our work includes education that dispels myths, like “War is natural” or “We have always had war,” and shows people not only that war should be abolished, but also that it actually can be. Our work includes all variety of nonviolent activism that moves the world in the direction of ending all war.

Footnotes:

1 United States Department of Defense. “Base Structure Report —Fiscal Year 2018 Baseline: A Summary of the Real Property Inventory Data.” Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment, 2018.
https://www.acq.osd.mil/eie/BSI/BEI_Library.html;see also Vine, David. “Lists of U.S. Military Bases Abroad, 1776–2021.” American University Digital Research Archive, 2021.https://doi.org/10.17606/7em4-hb13.
2 Burns, Robert. “Milley Urges ‘Relook’ at Permanent Overseas Basing of Troops.” Associated Press, December 3, 2020. https://apnews.com/article/persian-gulf-tensions-south-korea-united-states-5949185a8cbf2843eac27535a599d022.
3 “Congressional Budget Justification—Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, Fiscal Year 2022.” United States Department of State. 2021. ii.
4 The secrecy and limited transparency surrounding U.S. bases is mirrored by other nations’ foreign bases. Previous estimates suggested that the rest of the world’s militaries had around 60–100 foreign bases. New reporting suggests the United Kingdom has 145. See Miller, Phil. “REVEALED: The UK military’s overseas base network involves 145 sites in 42 countries.” Declassified UK, November 20, 2020.
https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2020-11-24-revealed-the-uk-militarys-overseas-base-network-involves-145-sites-in-42-countries/). As we discuss in our “What Isa Base?” section, the definition of a “base” is also a perennial challenge, making cross-national comparison even more difficult.
5 See, e.g., Jacobs, Frank. “The World’s Five Military Empires.” BigThink.com, July 10, 2017.
http://bigthink.com/strange-maps/the-worlds-five-military-empires;Sharkov, Damien. “Russia’s Military Compared to the U.S.” Newsweek, June 8, 2018.
http://www.newsweek.com/russias-military-compared-us-which-country-has-more-military-bases-across-954328.
6 The Department of Defense “Overseas Cost Report” (e.g., U.S. Department of Defense. “Operations and
Maintenance Overview, Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Estimates.” Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller), February 2020. 186–189), submitted in its annual budget documentation, provides limited cost information about installations in some but not all countries where the military maintains bases. The report’s data is frequently incomplete and often nonexistent for many countries. For more than a decade, DoD has reported total annual costs at overseas installations of around $20 billion. David Vine provides a more detailed estimate inBase Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World. New York. Metropolitan Books, 2015. 195-214. Vine used the same methodology to update this estimate for fiscal year 2019, excluding some costs to be even more conservative about the risk of double counting costs. We updated that estimate of $51.5 billion to the present using the Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI Inflation Calculator,https://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm.
7 Lostumbo, Michael J, et al.Overseas Basing of U.S.Military Forces: An Assessment of Relative Costs and Strategic Benefits. Santa Monica. RAND Corporation, 2013. xxv.
8 We estimate personnel costs by assuming, again conservatively, a per person cost of $115,000 (others use $125,000) and the approximately 230,000 troops and civilian personnel currently overseas. We derive the $115,000 per person estimate by adjusting an estimate of $107,106 for personnel stationed both overseas and domestically (Blakeley, Katherine. “Military Personnel.” Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis, August 15, 2017, https://csbaonline.org/reports/military-personnel),given the $10,000–$40,000 per person in additional costs for overseas personnel (see Lostumbo.Overseas Basingof U.S. Military Forces).
9 Military construction calculations for this report were prepared by Jordan Cheney, American University, using annual Pentagon budget documents submitted to Congress for military construction (C-1 programs). Total military construction spending abroad is higher still because of additional funds expended in war (“overseas contingency operations”) budgets. Between fiscal years 2004 and 2011, alone, military construction in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other war zones totaled $9.4 billion (Belasco, Amy. “The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11.” Congressional Research Service, March 29, 2011. 33). Using this level of spending as a guide ($9.4 billion in military construction spending for fiscal years 2004–2011 represented .85% of the military’s total war budget spending for the same period), we estimate war budget military construction spending for fiscal years 2001–2019 to total around $16 billion out of the Pentagon’s $1.835 trillion in war spending (McGarry, Brendan W. and Emily M. Morgenstern. “Overseas Contingency Operations Funding: Background and Status.” Congressional Research Service, September 6, 2019. 2). Our totals do not include additional funding in classified budgets and other budgetary sources that are, at times, not disclosed to Congress (e.g., when the military uses money appropriated for non-military construction purposes for military construction). See Vine. Base Nation. Chapter 13, for a discussion of military construction funding.
10 Vine, David.The United States of War: A Global Historyof America’s Endless Conflicts, from Columbus to the Islamic State.Oakland. University of California Press, 2020.248; Glain, Stephen. “What Actually Motivated Osama bin Laden.” U.S. News & World Report, May 3, 2011.
http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/stephen-glain/2011/05/03/what-actually-motivated-osama-bin-laden;
Bowman, Bradley L. “After Iraq.”Washington Quarterly,vol. 31, no. 2. 2008. 85.
11 Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Iraq, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Uganda, Yemen. See Savell, Stephanie, and 5W Infographics. “This Map Shows Where in the World the U.S. Military Is Combatting Terrorism.” Smithsonian Magazine,January 2019. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/map-shows-places-world-where-us-military-operates-180970997/; Turse, Nick, and Sean D. Naylor. “Revealed: The U.S. Military’s 36 Code-named Operations in Africa.” Yahoo News, April 17, 2019.https://news.yahoo.com/revealed-the-us-militarys-36-codenamed-operations-in-africa-090000841.html.
12 See, e.g., Vine.Base Nation. Chapter 4. People inAmerican Samoa have an even lower class of citizenship as they are not automatically U.S. citizens by birth.
13 Vine.Base Nation.138–139.
14 Volcovici, Valerie. “U.S. Senators Seek Answers on U.S. Presence in Niger after Ambush.”Reuters,October 22, 2017. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-niger-usa-idUSKBN1CR0NG.
15 One of the rare Congressional studies of U.S. bases and presence overseas showed that “once an American overseas base is established, it takes on a life of its own…. Original missions may become outdated, but new missions are developed, not only with the intent of keeping the facility going, but often to actually enlarge it.” United States Senate. “United States Security Agreements and Commitments Abroad.” Hearings before the Senate Subcommittee on United States Security Agreements and Commitments Abroad of the Committee on Foreign Relations. Ninety-first Congress, Vol. 2, 2017. More recent research has affirmed this finding. E.g., Glaser, John. “Withdrawing from Overseas Bases: Why a Forward-Deployed Military Posture Is Unnecessary, Outdated, and Dangerous.” Policy Analysis 816, CATO Institute, July 18, 2017; Johnson, Chalmers. The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic. New York. Metropolitan,2004; Vine. Base Nation.
16 Public Law 94-361, sec. 302.
17 U.S. Code 10, sec. 2721, “Real Property Records.” Previously, see U.S. Code 10, sec. 115 and U.S. Code 10, sec. 138(c). It is unclear if the Pentagon published the report in every year between 1976 and 2018, but reports can be located online since 1999 and appear to have been provided to Congress through most if not all of this period.
18 Turse, Nick. “Bases, Bases, Everywhere… Except in the Pentagon’s Report.” TomDispatch.com, January 8, 2019. http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176513/tomgram%3A_nick_turse%2C_one_down%2C_who_knows_how_many_to_go/#more; Vine.Base Nation.3-5; David Vine. “Listsof US Military Bases Abroad, 1776–2021.”
19 Turse, Nick. “U.S. Military Says It Has a ‘Light Footprint’ in Africa. These Documents Show a Vast Network of Bases.” The Intercept, December 1, 2018. https://theintercept.com/2018/12/01/u-s-military-says-it-has-a-light-footprint-in-africa-these-documents-show-a-vast-network-of-bases/; Savell, Stephanie, and 5W Infographics.“This Map Shows Where in the World the U.S. Military Is Combatting Terrorism.” Smithsonian Magazine,January 2019. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/map-shows-places-world-where-us-military-operates-180970997/; Turse, Nick. “America’s War-Fighting Footprint in Africa Secret U.S. Military Documents Reveal a Constellation of American Military Bases Across That Continent.” TomDispatch.com, April 27, 2017. https://tomdispatch.com/nick-turse-the-u-s-military-moves-deeper-into-africa/
20 O’Mahony, Angela, Miranda Priebe, Bryan Frederick, Jennifer Kavanagh, Matthew Lane, Trevor Johnston, Thomas S. Szayna, Jakub P. Hlávka, Stephen Watts, and Matthew Povlock. “U.S. Presence and Incidence of Conflict.” RAND Corporation. Santa Monica, 2018.
21 United States Department of Defense. “Base Structure Report —Fiscal Year 2018.” 18.
22 Biden, Joseph R. Jr. “Remarks by President Biden on America’s Place in the World.” February 4, 2021.
https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2021/02/04/remarks-by-president-biden-on-americas-place-in-the-world/.
23 “Department of Defense Infrastructure Capacity.” United States Department of Defense. October 2017,
https://fas.org/man/eprint/infrastructure.pdf.
24 Money for construction in Aruba and Curaçao is combined in Pentagon funding. We divided the total and
apportioned half to each location.
25 We use the Economist Intelligence Unit’scategorizationof Cuba as authoritarian, although the base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, could be categorized as a colony of the United States given the Cuban government’s inability to evict the U.S. military under the terms of an agreement U.S. officials imposed on the Cuba in the 1930s. See Vine.The United States of War. 23-24.
26 Money for construction in Aruba and Curaçao is combined in Pentagon funding. We divided the total and
apportioned half to each location.
27 United States Department of Defense.Base StructureReport —Fiscal Year 2018. 4.
28 See Vine. Base Nation. Chapter 13.
29 For an overview, see Vine. Base Nation. Chapter 7.

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