The Scope of U.S. Global Military Presence

Micah Zenko, “The Scope of U.S. Global Military Presence,” Council on Foreign Relations, April 30, 2013

That report—with twelve authors—was published yesterday by RAND: “Overseas Basing of U.S. Military Forces: An Assessment of the Relative Costs and Strategic Benefits.” It is, by far, the most impressive and comprehensive study of the scope, benefits, risks, costs, and consequences of America’s global military presence. Many citizens and policymakers are unaware of the number of troops stationed overseas to execute U.S. defense strategy: recent Pentagon data lists over 172,000 U.S. servicemembers on permanent or rotational deployments around the world (not including the 66,000 troops in Afghanistan).

A few other highlights that stood out:

We found that there are annual recurring fixed costs to having a base open, ranging from an estimated $50 million to about $200 million per year, depending on service and region, with additional variable recurring costs depending on base size. (xxv)

In Europe and the Asia-Pacific region due to higher allowances related to the cost of living, higher permanent-change-of-station move costs, and the need to provide schools more comprehensively, with the incremental overseas cost per person varying widely from about $10,000 to close to $40,000 per year. (xxv)

An unpublished RAND report assessed violent extremist attacks on military targets between 2000 and early 2009. Of those 1,800 incidents, only about 20 percent were against military facilities (see Figure 5.4). The rest were against military personnel outside of those facilities. As these data included incidents in Iraq and Afghanistan, there were numerous attacks on personnel in vehicles through IEDs (33 percent), as well as in exposed locations (43 percent), and only a small fraction occurred in nonmilitary structures (5 percent) (116)

Drawing on those sources, we find that the United States makes payments of about $30 million annually to Djibouti. The $30 million payment to Djibouti is made in consideration for the access to and use of the areas and facilities described in the Arrangement in Implementation of the ‘Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Djibouti on Access to and Use of Facilities in the Republic of Djibouti’ of February 19, 2003, Concerning the Use of Camp Lemonier and Other Facilities and Areas in the Republic of Djibouti and its annexes.’ Under the terms of that implementing arrangement, any payments made by the United States to Djibouti, consistent with the land lease of 2003, would be credited against the $30 million. By comparison, a recent press report notes that Djibouti, which hosts France’s largest military base in Africa, receives another $36.75 million per year in rent payments from that country. (156)

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