Congressmen speak of reducing military spending. Military bases are expensive to operate, yet another domestic base closing round is unlikely. However, the President can close any foreign base without Congressional approval. Polls show the vast majority of American citizens support the closure most U.S. military bases overseas. There are some unneeded bases in the Middle East, yet the future in that region is uncertain with the planned drawdowns, so none are mentioned here. Nevertheless, there are over a thousand U.S. military installations elsewhere, and half can be closed.
Closing these bases should not be viewed as anti-military. Money saved can be used for more combat forces, and more ships and transport aircraft for greater strategic mobility. There is also a need to rebalance our nation's overseas base structure to react worldwide, rather than contain communism. For example, closing outdated Cold War bases allows improvements to less developed bases in strategic locations. Our post-Cold War military has devoted small sums to improve bases in key spots like Guam, Sigonella in Sicily, Souda Bay in Crete, Thumrait in Oman, and Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti by the Red Sea, yet huge sums remain devoted to bases in England, Germany, Japan, and Korea. Potential key bases like Adak, Darwin, the nearby Cocos Islands, and the UK's Ascension Island (pictured), are ignored. Some of the billions of dollars wasted on outdated Cold War bases should be used to improve these sites with better airfields and ship piers, and larger fuel and ammunition storage facilities.
Here is a list of outdated U.S. military bases overseas that can be promptly closed to save billions of dollars each year while shifting billions of dollars and thousands of jobs into the American economy. None of these closures require the construction of replacement facilities in the USA because they are mostly base and headquarters overhead fat that serve no purpose. Proposals that require the relocation of operational units detail where vacant facilities already exist due to downsizing:
Withdraw from DMZ Bases - as ordered
Cut Army Fat in Europe - close USAREUR and Wiesbaden
Close the Rest of USAG Stuttgart - consolidate bases in Germany
Close Sembach - Again! - the Army's newest base
Don't Save Baumholder - close it now
Closing Spangdahlem - only one squadron remains
Downsize Kadena - remember Clark Field!
Close USAG Schinnen ASAP - it has no military purpose
APPROVED! The Pentagon endorsed this recommendation in July 2012
Vacate Sasebo - remember Pearl Harbor!
The Okinawa Solution - pull half our Marines off Okinawa
Halt Plans for New European Bases - in Poland and Romania
APPROVED! The Pentagon endorsed part of this recommendation in March 2013
Close Kelley Barracks - and Africom
The Manas Playground - an airbase with no purpose
APPROVED! The Pentagon endorsed this recommendation in Oct 2013
Why Does Camp Bondsteel Still Exist? - an outpost in Kosovo
The Forgotten Base at Soto Cano - hidden in Honduras
Close Share-a-Nuke Sites - deactivate four outdated sites and units
Close Outdated U.S. Military Bases in Japan - Futenma & Atsugi
Pull Aircraft and Airmen Out of Osan - now in a kill zone
Cut Army Fat in Korea - 8th Army and Daegu
Vacate Two Army Bases in Germany - as once planned
APPROVED! The Pentagon endorsed this recommendation in February 2012
Close USAG Garmisch - a hidden resort
APPROVED! The Pentagon endorsed part of this recommendation in May 2014
Close Torii Station - a U.S. Army base on Okinawa?
Vacate RAF Lakenheath - the Russians aren't coming
Close Cold War Airbases in England - except RAF Mildenhall
Close Gitmo, the Entire Base - it has no purpose
Close Chinhae Tomorrow - it commands nothing
The Norway Pre-Po Racket - still ready for a Soviet invasion
This list may seem extensive, but only represents around 20% of the American military presence overseas, measured by total base population. Most Americans prefer even more shut downs, but closing these is the best place to start. Many on this list have no military value at all!
Jan 8, 2015
The long awaited plan to consolidate bases in Europe was released. It's mostly a shell game that saves money in the long term by consolidating a few small facilities, which will require billions of dollars in spending for new construction. The only major change was to merge two adjacent airbases in England by shutting down the runway at Mildenhall. Soon after this announcement, the Army said it would increase force levels in Europe by 3000 troops.
May 28, 2013
The Rand Corporation just released a very detailed report: Overseas Basing of U.S. Military Forces (big PDF file). This report is an amazing 425 pages long, and includes several options to close bases.
I like most of it, although it ignores the need to drawdown in South Korea. The authors all agree that most Air Force units should be removed from England and most Army units from Germany; although they leave the massive unneeded headquarter bases untouched - Stuttgart and Wiesbaden. They agree that most Marines must withdraw from Okinawa, but don't seem to understand that Okinawa and Sasebo are sitting ducks should war break out with China. The madness of deploying thousands of military families to potential war zones is ignored.
April 17, 2013
A Senate Armed Services Committee report finds lack of oversight, rising U.S. costs at overseas bases.
December 11, 2012
Picking Up a $170 Billion Tab: How US Taxpayers Are Paying the Pentagon to Occupy the Planet
American overseas bases cost $170 billion a year, which excludes the cost of fighting units. This is twice more than China spends on its entire military.
March 31, 2012
Congress' message to DOD: No BRAC for now, but cut more in EuropeBy John Vandiver
Stars and Stripes
Published: March 31, 2012
STUTTGART, Germany — Overcoming stiff opposition on Capitol Hill to any new round of U.S. base closures and realignments could hinge on how ambitious Pentagon plans are for closing more military facilities in Europe.
The bolder the proposals for Europe, the better the chances of persuading lawmakers to endure two rounds of base realignments and closures (BRAC) at home as proposed for 2013 and 2015, some military experts say.
Pentagon officials and senior commanders in Europe are drafting a new consolidation plan for Europe installations. The plan will contain a set of recommendations for Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to consider later this year, according to senior defense officials.
“We definitely believe we can do more to consolidate in Europe,” Dorothy Robyn, deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment, told lawmakers during a recent hearing on BRAC before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Oct 2011 - OBRAC
Senators want commission to consider overseas base closingsBy Leo Shane III
Stars and Stripes
Published: October 19, 2011
WASHINGTON — A pair of U.S. senators are calling for full review of the costs of overseas military bases, saying that closing dozens of the foreign facilities could save billions in wasteful spending. Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, on Wednesday introduced legislation to create a new commission to “scrutinize the necessity of the United States’ current overseas basing structure” and do a cost-benefit analysis of closing multiple overseas bases.
Earlier in the week, the pair sent a letter to the congressional supercommittee charged with trimming $1.2 trillion in government spending, urging them to make significant cuts in future overseas military construction projects. In particular, the letter called into question U.S. military projects in Europe and on Guam, saying the Defense Department has not justified the need for billions more in base spending there. In a statement, Hutchison called the commission an important step toward ending unnecessary military spending. “With today’s historic levels of debt, we need to move quickly to identify ways that we can bring our military training capabilities home, create American jobs in military construction and save taxpayer dollars without sacrificing the security needs of U.S. forces and the American people,” she said.
In May, Tester petitioned the Defense Department to consider closing Cold War-era military installations on foreign soil, saying the move could save billions of taxpayer dollars. The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform earlier this year estimated that “responsible” overseas base closings could save taxpayers $8.5 billion in the next four years. The president’s own Commission on Debt Reduction put that figure closer to $9 billion.
But Defense Department officials have pushed back on those claims. In June, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that those savings don’t include the corresponding military construction needed stateside to house returning troops, and don’t take into account the strategic risk such moves would invite. “The biggest policy question that has to be asked is what kind of signal do you want to send the rest of the world,” Gates told members of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “Are we basically sending the message to the rest of the world, to China, to Iran, to North Korea … that the U.S. is closing up and heading home? What kind of a role do you want for the United States in the world?” The eight-member panel would be appointed by both Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate. The legislation would have to be approved by both chambers and signed into law by the president before becoming law.
Also, my overseas base closure effort is gathering support in Congress and the Pentagon says it will close some. I have the only detailed proposal on the Internet or anywhere else as far as I know. Google overseas base closure or anything similar and my list is near the top.
June 2011 - The Okinawa Game
"Certain projects in Korea, Japan and Guam have gotten to the point that it is clearly in the best interests of our countries, and in the best interests of sustaining and furthering our strong alliances, to re-examine these plans and adjust them to fiscal, political and strategic realities," said Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Senators Levin, McCain, and Webb backed my proposal to move Marine Corps aircraft from Futenma up the road to the larger U.S. airbase at Kadena, and moving some USAF units to other bases. They also objected to Army expansion plans in Korea.
Carlton Meyer editor@G2mil.com