My grandfathers were both veterans of World War One.
Vincent Coen, my maternal grandfather, was a sailor aboard The SS Leviathan, which transported over 119,000 US troops across the Atlantic to France.
William J. Reddan, my paternal grandfather, was Captain of Company B, 114th infantry, and was one of 14 survivors of the Battle of Bois de Ormont in France on October 12, 1918, during the Meuse Argonne offensive. His outrage over orders to take his men into this battle, which annihilated over 200 of his Company, resulted in his war memoir “Other Men’s Lives, (Experiences of a Doughboy 1917 – 1919.)”
Although grandpa Reddan died 12 years before my birth, it was during my high school years – while the Vietnam War was raging endlessly on – that I discovered his book, “Other Men’s Lives.” I picked up the copy he had given to his youngest son, my dad, and read the following inscription inside:
Oct 23rd 1936
To the ‘ boss’ of the house – my son – Joseph Leslie Reddan
May you be spared from ever participating in the horrors of war, is the prayer of your loving, soldier, ‘Dad’:
May God bless you and give you a long and happy life.
Wm J. Reddan
I devoured his first-person narrative of that war, with its gruesome details of life in the trenches, surrounded by death and destruction, and I was determined to learn more.
I became obsessed with why men slaughter each other.
So I spent the next few decades devoting myself to learning all that I could, predominantly, on America’s involvement in wars.
World War One’s statistics were grim. Among involved countries, casualties for men between the ages of 19 and 32 were staggering; British casualties in battles like the Somme (1916) numbered in the tens of thousands – and that was just the first day of battle. Virtually overnight, entire landscapes were reduced to ghoulish death zones. Though total numbers are difficult to confirm, it was commonly agreed by historians that – at the war’s end – there were over 38 million casualties, including more than 21 million wounded, many left to a life of suffering from amputations, disfigurement, diseases, survivor’s guilt, and shell shock (after the war tens of thousands of American veterans languished in psychiatric facilities suffering from what is now called post-traumatic stress disorder.)
At the war’s end, almost everybody regretted the incomprehensible devastation. In America, it brought forth a new era of prohibition, curtailment of civil liberties, a crackdown on pacifists and labor organizers, imprisonment, rebellion among veterans over unemployment, deportations, a permanent military, and taxes to pay for it.
World War One was promoted as the war “to end all wars.” And despite the lice and rat-infested trenches – cobbled together with barbed wire, concrete, plank, and mud – where gruesome battle gains were measured in feet, after the war, American political might became ignited by an insatiable appetite to expand the arms and propaganda industry beyond comprehension.
One hundred years later, we are engaged in endless wars, expensive, costly endless wars.
Aside from the human toll, how much does endless war – and a growing number of US bases around the world – cost each year?
This is an attempt to do a reasonable calculation of the cost to taxpayers of our hundreds of bases stationed around the world (those which are mostly outside the theatre of war), commencing with the end of The Great War. I undertook this exercise using my decades-long background in accounting, available public reports, articles, research papers, books (to connect the dots), interviews with current and former military personnel, and common sense. Well, as much common sense as possible given the US military budget is the largest of any country in the world, as much as the next 10 country’s military budgets combined.
Among the many resources used in this analysis was the 116 page “Defense Budget Overview, US Department of Defense [DoD], Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request” (The Report), in which the 2019 request was $686.1 Billion, an increase of 13% or $74 billion, over 2018.
The Report is less a “defense” budget; rather it’s more a report oozing threats to worldwide lethal annihilation:
“The strategic goals for Fiscal Years 2018-FY 2023 reflect the Secretary’s priorities:
- Increase the lethality of the Joint Force;
- Strengthen US alliances and build new partnerships;
- Reform the Department to reinvest resources in warfighter priorities”
(The Report, page 9-3)
If the planet is our community, America is the bully in the neighborhood. Reference to the word “lethal” is sprinkled no less than 3 dozen times throughout The Report (“more lethal force” p. 2-6, “technology innovation for increased lethality” p.1-1, “increasing the lethality of new and existing weapons systems” p. 3-2).
Among the DoD’s goals is the Orwellian “preserving peace through strength” and “protecting the American way of life” (a way of life in which every minute four people are served with eviction judgements, 30 million have no access to health care, $1.5 Trillion is owed in suffocating student loan debt, and 63% of the population cannot afford a $500 emergency repair.)
Were it not for The Report’s dire (yet, fully funded) predictions for world domination, one would think this budget request was satire by The Onion. From page 2-4, the foreign affairs Strategic Approach for the upcoming year states: “to succeed in the emerging security environment, the Department and Joint Force will have to out-think, out-maneuver, out-partner, and out-innovate revisionist powers, rogue regimes, terrorists, and other threat actors.”
And again, the number one goal is to “Build a more lethal force.”
In a world where money is no object, The Report specifically details the following purchasing priorities for 2019:
- Increasing the strength of the Army, Navy, and Air Force by almost 26,000;
- Buying ten combat ships ($18.4 Billion);
- Increasing production of the F-35 aircraft and F/A-18 aircraft ($12.7 Billion);
- Enhancing deterrence by modernizing the nuclear triad;
- And the ever-lovin’:
- Increasing the emphasis on technology innovation for increased lethality.
Additionally, The Report states “The DoD has expended more munitions than planned over the last few years, primarily to defeat Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), leading to higher demand to replenish munition inventories” (3-6). Addressing these needs, the 2019 budget request increases by over 28,300 the amount of production for the following munitions:
- Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems;
- Advanced Precision Kill Weapon Systems;
- Joint Direct Attack Munition;
- Small Diameter Bomb 1 (includes spares);
- Hellfire rockets;
- Army Tactical Missile Systems
TOTAL increased cost in the 2019 budget for these munitions is $8.1 Billion (p.3-7)
In a surprise (yet not really) admission, The Report states that “major power competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security” (page 2-1).
But let’s back up a minute. More historical perspective is relative at this point, if only to grasp the enormity of US spending over the last 18 years on endless wars around the globe (and also because I like numbers.)
One hundred years ago, World War One cost the US $22.6 Billion dollars, which today is $328 billion, adjusted for inflation. The 2019 DoD budget request is $686.1 Billion, or twice what it cost the US during WW1 in today’s dollars (and the US was involved less than 2 years.)
Included in the DoD 2019 Budget request of $686.1 Billion, is $89 Billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), which predominantly funds the wars (operations, in-theatre support, classified programs, coalition forces, counter-ISIS training, security, etc.) Specifically stated areas include Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and “other mobilization” sites.
According to the The Report, OCO funding alone for the 18 year period beginning in 2001 through 2018 totaled $1.8 Trillion (1-3), or almost $101 Billion per year – an amount which approximates the annual combined budgets of the US Department of Education ($60 Billion) Department of Health & Human Services ($18 Billion), the Department of Transportation ($15.6 Billion), and Department of Labor ($9.4 Billion.)
Military Bases outside US borders
Pouring through various documents, publications, books, and research papers, I developed a list of countries with US military bases outside the US. This list includes US territories (Guam, US Virgin Islands, Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico) and includes bases in 183 countries, on 7 continents and 7 bodies of water. Exhibit A-1 identifies the list of countries, totaling 883 sites. This number does not include US Embassies and may or may not include other sites such as lily pads (smaller, temporary, and/or not authorized sites) and special operations sites.
Some publicly available documents, from the US government, contradict one other. For example, the Army’s most recent average cost per person is just under $100K ($94.3K). However, other defense documents calculate average cost per person at $55K. I could not find a single, comprehensive document which accounted for the total cost of overseas bases (additionally, many excluded the cost of bases on US Territories), so I took data available, from a number of resources to calculate the costs contained herein. Where contradictions occur, I so note.
I started with the Department of Defense Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request which acknowledges $2.6 Trillion in assets on the balance sheet of the Department’s books (6-2). Of these assets, another report – The Base Structure Report Fiscal Year 2017 states:
“The DoD manages a worldwide real property portfolio that spans all 50 states, eight US territories with outlying areas, and 41 foreign countries. The majority of the foreign sites are located in Germany (120 sites), Japan (121 sites) and South Korea (78 sites.)”
Baseline Report page DoD-6
The Baseline Report identifies a total of 4,793 sites worldwide, at a value of $1.046 Trillion, covering 27.2 million acres of land. Of the 883 sites in Exhibit A-1, The Baseline Report verifies 110 sites located in US Territories and another 517 sites overseas, for a total of 627 sites outside the US with a 09/30/16 value of approximately $200 Billion.
This worldwide portfolio of 4,793 sites on over 27 million acres includes:
- Buildings: “The DOD occupies a reported 275,504 buildings throughout the world, valued at over $705 billion and comprising over 2.2 billion square feet (DoD-8).” The buildings include administrative, community facilities, family housing, hospitals and medical, maintenance, production, operation and training, research and development, testing, supply, troop housing, mess facilities and utility and ground improvements.
- Structures: DoD structures throughout the world are valued at over $162 Billion.
- Linear Structures: DoD manages over 112,931 linear structures throughout the world at a value over $178 Billion. Linear structures are facilities whose functions require that it traverse land (examples include runways, roads, rail lines, pipelines, fences, pavement, and electrical distribution lines.)
The difference between Exhibit A-1 estimate of overseas bases of 883 and the 627 mentioned in the baseline report may be reconciled as follows:
- The DoD will be undergoing one of the largest consolidated DoD-wide financial statement audits in Fiscal Year 2018, which will involve both general funds and working capital funds. A focus of the audit will be “the discovery of Real Property and General Equipment not being recorded in the proper system (6-3).” (It is anticipated, based on prior audits, that not all overseas sites assets – i.e. buildings, roads, structures – are recorded on the books of the DoD.)
- Exhibit A-1 includes 95 sites which are smaller sites and may or may not be in the Baseline Report.
- The Baseline Report identifies 517 sites worldwide (exclusive of US Territories), but a count of the detail in the same report (pages DOD 70 thru DOD 85) resulted in a total of almost 600 sites.
So How Much do These 883 Sites Cost Taxpayers Annually?
The Report identifies ten Combatant Command Exercise and Engagement programs and lists the following nine:
USCENTCOM (Kingdom of Jordan);
USCYBERCOM (virtual environment);
USNORTHCOM (Homeland defense);
USSOUTHCOM (Latin America);
USSTRATCOM (nuclear deterrence);
USTRANSCOM (Full spectrum global mobility)
This report’s costs include:
- Fixed costs which are costs which do not change if a particular site is not occupied. Examples include: rent/mortgage payments, property taxes, insurance, maintenance.
- Variable costs which do change based on occupancy. Examples include utility consumption, repair and maintenance, cleanup, trash removal, increased costs due to surrounding neighborhood activity.
A Rand Corporation research report from 2013, acknowledged that overall costs are higher overseas even when taking host-nation support into account. I took a conservative approach in the following calculations.
Of the roughly 2 million military personnel, including reserves and National Guard, approximately 12%, or 238,000 are deployed to overseas bases (outside of OCO.) Personnel includes base pay, payroll taxes, bonuses (sign on and incentive), pension, uniforms, transportation, basic training/boot camp, life insurance, education, weapon assignment, annual allowances for uniform and weapon upkeep. In order to calculate this cost, I started with the daily basic pay for military personnel, and built upon that cost with the aforementioned burdens, and pro-rated amounts for overseas costs.
Annual Cost of Personnel $22.9 Billion
Transportation costs include Army, Air Force, Marine, Navy and National Guard and represent costs to move personnel to overseas locations and back. According to the report, “Overseas Basing of US Military Forces, 2011”, average annual cost for overseas transportation per person was $5,200, and varied depending on place of deployment.
Annual Cost of Transportation $ 1.3 Billion
Maintenance of Facilities
The DoD occupies or maintains buildings, facilities, and linear structures worth over $1 Trillion worldwide. The value of the overseas portfolio is about $200 Billion, covering about 50,000 structures. Applying a standard no-less-than-one-percent-per-value of the asset, plus insurance, plus capital improvements, and contingency, I came up with annual cost of maintenance of overseas (including US Territories) bases.
Annual Cost of Maintenance of Facilities $ 7.5 Billion
The 2019 DoD budget request includes an increase in the OCO budget of an additional $17 Billion for facilities construction overseas.
Previous and current year construction projects include:
- The Kaiserslautern Military Community Center in Germany, an 8 story, 844,000 square foot Air Force facility which includes a 350-room visiting quarters, a four-plex movie theatre, Power Zone, Outdoor Living, Toyland/Four Seasons, food court, new car sales and other vendors in an American-Style mall layout, and a two-story climbing wall. It is intended to house about 50,000 military members and their families. Construction costs are difficult to ascertain (because the Air Force is not tracking the total cost of this facility, which has experienced multiple construction-related delays, deficiencies, and overruns.) Total cost is expected to exceed $215 million.
- New construction of Landstuhl Military Hospital in Germany is expected to be slightly less than $1 Billion ($990 Million) and is expected to be completed in 2021. This hospital is expected to replace the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center as the military’s main European medical facility.
- New construction of medical material warehouse at Kadena Air Base in Japan. Cost for this building is expected to be more than $20 million.
Total cost of construction for the 3 aforementioned facilities is over $1.2 Billion.
Taking into account the cost of overseas construction, the DoD 2019 budget request for overseas construction and applying a multiplier factor, I came up with a conservative estimate of the annual cost of construction (because not all money will be spent in one year’s time.)
Annual Cost of Construction 4.8 Billion
The DoD 2019 budget request acknowledges health care costs runs about 9% of the DoD budget (excluding long-term care or disability-related or permanent injuries.) Health care costs include use of VA facilities, Tricare, and combat casualty care for members and their families.
Annual Cost of Health Care $ 5.9 Billion
Estimated cost of training for overseas personnel takes into effect (a) direct equipment parts (b) fuel costs (c) post production software costs and (d) indirect support costs. Calculating training costs for Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, and others, and considering total historical costs per year for NORTHCOM, AFRICOM, and SOUTHCOM of $980 million in 2012 costs, I applied annual cost of inflation increases, and with contingency, came up with an annual cost for ongoing training exercises for military personnel.
Annual Cost of Training $ 1.0 Billion
Environmental contamination is a by-product of weapons and ballistic testing and training for all divisions of the military. Add to that burn pits, depleted uranium, destroyed species on both land and water, poisoned water supplies, and ongoing cleanup of nuclear testing fallout, to name a few.
As an example, Guam, at 210 square miles, is home to dozens of US military bases. Its ecosystem suffered tremendously when brown snakes were introduced to the island, entering the island, over the decades, with US military equipment. These 2 million brown snakes have shorted out electrical systems, devastated new tree growth, and knocked out entire species of birds. According to Science Alert, “10 of 12 bird species native to Guam had vanished, including a kingfisher that can’t be found anywhere else on Earth.” The military has spent no less than $12 million alone trying to eradicate this problem.
Annual Cost of Environmental Remediation $ 1.3 Billion
Allowances and Site Costs
Allowances and site costs for Army, Air Force, Marines, and Navy include base allowance for housing, overseas housing allowances, cost of living allowances, and family separation allowances. Average annual cost for per person is $25,900.
Annual Cost of Allowances and Site Costs $ 3.3 Billion
Military Family Support
The 2019 DoD budget request for military family support totals $8.1 Billion and includes (1) child care and youth programs (2) morale, welfare, and recreation (3) warfighter and family services (4) commissary (5) Department of Defense overseas schools and (6) Military spouse employment.
Annual Cost of Military Family Support $ 2.4 Billion
Total Cost of Military Overseas Bases $50.4 Billion
The above cost estimate does not include:
- Extended medical and long-term care of partially and permanently disabled veterans;
- Legal costs of criminal activity committed by military personnel at permanent base sites;
- Payments to communities for reimbursement of base-related neighborhood costs;
- Negotiation, legal, and otherwise for land protection, remediation, and extraction of resources.
Cost of Personnel $ 22.9 Billion
Transportation $ 1.3 Billion
Maintenance of Facilities $ 7.5 Billion
Construction $ 4.8 Billion
Health Care $ 5.9 Billion
Training $ 1.0 Billion
Environmental Remediation $ 1.3 Billion
Allowances & Site Costs $ 3.3 Billion
Military Family Support $ 2.4 Billion
Total Estimated Annual Cost of Overseas Bases $ 50.4 Billion
Add Overseas Contingency Operations (funding the wars)
included in The Report $ 89.0 Billion
Total Estimated Annual Cost of overseas operations $139.4 Billion
War is not normal activity.
War results in broken families, orphans, homelessness, refugees, destroyed landscapes, churches, schools, hospitals, infrastructure, housing – entire communities literally bombed to extinction.
The DoD 2019 budget clearly articulates the ramp up of military forces, the expansion of military “solutions” worldwide.
Conversation is desperately needed about America’s lethal role in the destruction of our planet.
Plato famously said “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”
I hope that’s not what it will take.
|COUNTRIES||Continent||Major Base||# Bases||Smaller Bases/Lilly pads/named|
|American Samoa||South-Central Pacific Ocean||1|
|Antigua & Barbuda||North America||1|
|Ascension Island||South Atlantic Ocean||X||1|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||Europe||1|
|British Indian Ocean Territory||North America||X||1|
|Central African Republic||Africa||1|
|Costa Rica||North America||1|
|Diego Garcia||Indian Ocean||X||1|
|Dominican Republic||North America||1|
|El Salvador||North America||X||1|
|Johnston Atoll||North Pacific Ocean||1|
|Northern Mariana Islands||Pacific Ocean||5|
|Papua New Guinea||Australia||1|
|Puerto Rico||North America||37|
|Republic of Korea||Asia||X||83|
|United Arab Emirates||Asia||X||3|
|US Virgin Islands||Caribbean Sea||7|
|Wake Island||Central Pacific Ocean||1|
|TOTAL MILITARY BASES OVERSEAS||883|
Note: Above does included only one bases in Syria, although Syria is mentioned in The Report as a targeted operation for Overseas Contingency Operations. Including additional base sites in Syria, military sites overseas could exceed 900.