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Institute for Policy Studies

Report Info

  • Released July 2, 2009
Foreign Policy In Focus » Report

The Cost of the Global U.S. Military Presence

It costs $250 billion a year to maintain the U.S. empire.

The U.S. military's global presence is vast and costly. More than one-third of U.S. troops are currently based abroad or afloat in international waters, and hundreds of bases and access agreements exist throughout the world. At the beginning of the 21st century, the government pushed to expand this presence through a variety of mechanisms. Yet the Department of Defense's budget presentations lack enough detail to make it possible to know the precise cost. The budgets don't break down the numbers, for example, on maintaining bases at home and overseas.

Nevertheless, from data on personnel, bases, and the Pentagon's budgets, it's possible to make an estimate. This number comes from the proportion of each branch's budget devoted to military personnel stationed overseas, excluding troops based in and around Iraq and Afghanistan. Since one-fourth of these military personnel are stationed overseas, the overall figure includes one-fourth of the defense-wide budget. Finally, it includes the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the amount of military assistance to other countries. The report does not include subsidies from governments that host bases, three-quarters of which come from Japan alone.

The final bill: The United States spends approximately $250 billion annually to maintain troops, equipment, fleets, and bases overseas.