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.


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  1. I’m working on a spreadsheet of U.S. military bases with all dangerous chemicals (including PFAS) listed. More than 400 contaminated and hundreds more waiting for inspection results to be released. This looks like it will include the vast majority of U.S. bases. Bases overseas are more difficult, because of the sovereign immunity clauses, but most are probably contaminated.

    • Leah Bolger says:

      Hi JIm,
      I’m sorry I am just now seeing your comment. We would be very interested in adding your spreadsheet to our research. I just had an intern for a couple of months who was working on creating a database for documenting all the environmental issues at foreign bases, and that info would certainly be a big contribution. Can you contact me via e-mail so we can discuss collaboration? leahbolger@comcast.net

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