National Defense

Empire Bloat

Bases, bases everywhere

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The Defense Department's 2008 Base Structure Report reveals just how far the military has spread across the globe. As of last summer, the Pentagon rents or owns 316,238 buildings around the world with a total value of more than $455 billion. These holdings are spread across 4,668 sites in the United States and its territories and 761 in foreign countries. That latter number doesn't include bases and sites in war zones or in those trouble spots where the U.S. doesn't release detailed information and expenditures.

This isn't a record for the Defense Department. The official number of military sites peaked in 1967, at the height of the Cold War and the conflict in Vietnam, with 1,014 locations in foreign countries. And the number is down from 823 in 2007.

According to the anti-war journalist Chalmers Johnson, one factor keeping the figure from rising further is the anti-American sentiment that spikes when the U.S. military moves in, allowing locals to blame Americans for any conflict in the region. Kyrgyzstani President Kurmanbek Bakiyev has threatened to close down the Manas air base in his country, demanding more payment for rent. And in Ecuador, President Rafael Correa has threatened to end America's lease on the Eloy Alfaro Air Base when it expires in 2009. He suggests he might lease it to China instead.