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US Military Mystery

Wallstreetatheist
Posts: 7,132
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5/4/2012 12:47:07 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
Military mystery: How many bases does the US have, anyway?

When it comes to accountability, you'd probably hope that the US military would be rather exacting, right? Sorry. The answer to the seemingly simple question, "How many military bases does America have outside of our own country?" is not at all simple.

In a recent article in Asia Times, investigative reporter Nick Turse calls the answer to that question, "…the one number no American knows. Not the president. Not the Pentagon. Not the experts. No one."

You can't get a consistent answer from news stories, that's for sure. Recent articles, media reports and op-eds peg the number variously at 460, 507, 560, 662 and more than 1,000. Depending on whom you ask or what source you consult, writes Turse:

"there are more than 1,000 US military bases dotting the globe. To be specific, the most accurate count is 1,077. Unless it's 1,088. Or, if you count differently, 1,169. Or even 1,180. Actually, the number might even be higher. Nobody knows for sure."

Going straight to the source [of course, of course] doesn't help, either. According to the Department of Defense's 2010 Base Structure Report, as of 2009, the US military maintained 662 foreign sites in 38 countries around the world. But that number represents a reduction from numbers reported by DOD just a few years ago.

Military spokespersons regularly add to the confusion. Turse notes that:

Speaking before the senate appropriations committee's sub-committee on military construction, veterans and related agencies early last year, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Dorothy Robyn referenced the Pentagon's "507 permanent installations". The Pentagon's 2010 Base Structure Report, on the other hand, lists 4,999 total sites in the US, its territories, and overseas.

Turse has done his homework, consulting official sources and interviewing military officials who are supposedly responsible for keeping track of these things. His account of his journey through the world of military recordkeeping reads like something straight out of Franz Kafka. Numbers vary from office to office and report to report. They go up, and they go down. They're based on varying criteria, depending on who's doing the counting. He ends up feeling confused and dismayed.

Along the way to [the] "final" tally, I was offered a number of explanations – from different methods of accounting to the failure of units in the field to provide accurate information – for the conflicting numbers I had been given. After months of exchanging e-mails and seeing the numbers swing wildly, ending up with roughly the same count in November as I began with in January suggests that the US command isn't keeping careful track of the number of bases in Afghanistan. Apparently, the military simply does not know how many bases it has in its primary theater of operations.

Worse yet are the apparently deliberate omissions from the tally. "Scan the Department of Defense's 2010 Base Structure Report for sites in Afghanistan," writes Turse. "Go ahead, read through all 206 pages. You won't find a mention of them, not a citation, not a single reference, not an inkling that the United States has even one base in Afghanistan, let alone more than 400."

Incredibly, the same blackout applies to Iraq, where published reports in mainstream media outlets put the number of bases in the 80s. So, even the official US military tally underreports our presence by nearly 500 bases. And that's before you add in other blacked-out sites in places like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Also conveniently "forgotten" in the base count are facilities run by other countries on behalf of the US, sites operated covertly by the CIA, and de facto "bases" that float on America's fleet of aircraft carriers, says Turse.

So, what's the real number? We don't know, and it seems clear that nobody is in a big hurry to tell us. Turse concludes that,

In the grand scheme of things, the actual numbers aren't all that important. Whether the most accurate total is 900 bases, 1,000 bases or 1,100 posts in foreign lands, what's undeniable is that the US military maintains…an empire of bases so large and shadowy that no one – not even at the Pentagon – really knows its full size and scope…An honest count of US bases abroad – a true, full and comprehensive list – would be a tiny first step in the necessary process of downsizing the global mission.
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Contra
Posts: 3,941
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5/4/2012 6:54:31 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
That's why we should close 1/3rd of overseas military bases (recommened by the Simpson-Bowles commission).
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DanT
Posts: 5,693
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5/4/2012 9:34:21 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 5/4/2012 6:54:31 AM, Contra wrote:
That's why we should close 1/3rd of overseas military bases (recommened by the Simpson-Bowles commission).

How many is 1/3? :P
"Chemical weapons are no different than any other types of weapons."~Lordknukle
Ragnar_Rahl
Posts: 19,297
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5/4/2012 11:31:32 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
Does the military keep track of how many personnel it has assigned to each country?

If so, who cares whether it also keeps track of something as vague as a "base"?
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PARADIGM_L0ST
Posts: 6,958
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5/4/2012 1:15:06 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
There is some confusion as to what a "base" means. In typical military jargon, it refers to major, self-sustaining installations (i.e. Camp Pendleton, Fort Bragg, Lackland AFB, NAS Jacksonville, etc). As far as those are concerned, there's a definitive number.

This does not incorporate, however, places like "forward operating bases." In places like Afghanistan, there are numerous forward operating bases or outposts which are used as temporary shelter, a place to eat and sleep, and as an ammunition supply deep in enemy territory. They are, for the most part, lightly defended and are constantly under attack by Taliban. I don't consider that a "base" in the traditional sense, I consider that a temporary staging site. Once an objective is complete, it's often shut down and dismantled.

This is a lot different than a permanent base on foreign soil in places like Italy, Japan, Korea, Germany, etc. They almost never close these, however, the Marine Corps is finally pulling out of Okinawa. There's just been too many instances that jeopardize international relations. The Marines are moving to Northern Australia instead, where it might be marginally better, but I still lots of tension in the near future.
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DanT
Posts: 5,693
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5/4/2012 3:27:14 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 5/4/2012 1:18:33 PM, Koopin wrote:
What's up with China Australian tension anyway?

China and Australia are close trading partners, and their relationship been growing, but China is not a very good friend to have.

China detained four employees of the British-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto, which caused some major tension. Than on top of this, China spewed negative propaganda about the Australian politicians being racist, and claimed that their money would probably be best spent elsewhere (as if you can trust their currency).
"Chemical weapons are no different than any other types of weapons."~Lordknukle