Cost of Overseas US Bases Soaring as Usefulness Lags
April 18, 2013
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & The Associated Press
The United States is footing more of the bill for overseas bases in Germany, Japan and South Korea even as the military reduces the number of American troops in Europe and strategically repositions forces in Asia, a congressional report says. Currently, the US taxpayers support 48,000 active-duty personnel in Germany at a cost of $4 billion for basing and support. This amount does not include military personnel costs, which add another $3.9 billion.
Report: Cost of Overseas US Bases Soaring as Usefulness Lags
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
WASHINGTON, DC (April 17, 2013) -- A new Congressional report details the rising costs of keeping massive US bases overseas at a time when the Pentagon is looking to reduce its footprint in many of those countries, revealing a $10 billion annual cost just for the bases, and the bulk of that coming in Germany, Japan and South Korea.
Congressmen are expressing considerable annoyance that the host nations stuck with the bases, who are expected to "contribute" to their upkeep, are seeing their contributions lagging behind the ever-soaring US expenses. They say more contributions should be made since some of these bases may conceivably eventually be given back to those nations some day.
Yet the utility of these bases is also lagging, with Germany's role as the front-line in the Cold War over for decades, and Japanese officials openly calling for the US to leave, even as the US pushes them to cough up more and more for those bases.
The $10 billion is a drop in the bucket for the Pentagon's enormous budget, yet only reflects the costs of physically keeping the bases there, not the costs of keeping them staffed. This is also a source of considerable waste, with the Pentagon spending $200,000 in Germany just to buy "sunrooms" for high-ranking officers deployed there.
The expenses in Germany are particularly unwise, as the Pentagon has openly talked about reducing military presence there for years, since the troops aren't really do much there anymore anyhow.
Report: US Paying More for Overseas Bases in Germany, Japan, South Korea Despite Troop Shifts
WASHINGTON, DC (April 17, 2013) -- The United States is footing more of the bill for overseas bases in Germany, Japan and South Korea even as the military reduces the number of American troops in Europe and strategically repositions forces in Asia, a congressional report says.
The exhaustive, yearlong investigation by the Senate Armed Services Committee focused on costs and burden-sharing as the United States spends more than $10 billion a year to back up the US military presence overseas, with 70 percent of the amount expended in the three nations. The figure does not include military personnel costs.
The panel's report released Wednesday found the financial contributions by those host countries lagging behind costs or increases in US spending. The report identified inherent problems and missteps in the compensation system as the US returns a growing number of its upgraded facilities on foreign land to the host countries.
The report insisted that the American presence in the countries is vital, especially with bellicose threats from a nuclear North Korea, China's military growth and Germany's partnership with the US in NATO. However, the Pentagon is now facing the pressure of deficit-driven, smaller budgets while looking to scale back or close overseas and US domestic bases.
The cost arrangements with allies have drawn greater congressional scrutiny -- and frustration.
"The growth in our share has really been pretty stunning. And I think we've got to stop that direction," Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the committee, said in an interview. "We cannot carry these greater and greater and greater percentages of the costs of maintaining these facilities. The ones that we give back, we're going to have to be given appropriate consideration for the improvements, and the ones that we keep will have to have a much fairer burden-sharing than has been the case in the last 10 years."
The size of the US force in Germany is expected to drop in the coming year as the Army plans to deactivate one brigade combat team next year and possibly reduce the force even further with a cut of around 2,500 soldiers. Currently, the US has 48,000 active-duty personnel in Germany at a cost of $4 billion for basing and support.
The amount does not include military personnel costs of $3.9 billion.
The troop reductions -- the Army already deactivated one heavy brigade combat team in October 2012 -- have resulted in excess military facilities. However, instead of getting cash for the buildings, the US has been negotiating residual value, in-kind payments of services or facilities with a cash value.
Cash payments would be placed in an account and only used for maintenance, repair and environmental restoration. In-kind payments can be directed to military construction.
The committee identified some questionable military construction projects from this arrangement. About $200,000 of residual value, in-kind payments were directed to add sunrooms to senior officer homes in Stuttgart, Germany, in 2007.