The American military is the world’s preeminent fighting force. The significance of the U.S. military, however, is not limited to geopolitics. Domestically, the military serves as an economic and social pillar in cities across the country by employing thousands and contributing billions of dollars each year to local economies.
There are nearly 1.2 million Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine service members assigned at military bases across the United States. An additional 1.5 million of their spouses and children are stationed at those same bases. These service members and their families attend local schools, shop at local businesses and are fundamental to the fabric of their communities.
Using data compiled by U.S. Department of Defense contractor Military OneSource, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the total number of active-duty military personnel and their dependents as a share of the total population at the metropolitan area level to identify America’s number one military city. In the metro areas on the list of finalists, U.S. troops and their families account for anywhere from almost 7% to over 50% of the total population. Nationwide, less than 1% of the population are active-duty service members.
The large military presence in the metro areas on the list of finalists is typically attributable to the presence of one or more nearby military bases or installations. These bases are home to thousands of military personnel and sometimes their families. Some of the metro areas are home to some of the largest military bases in the world. Here is a look at America’s largest military bases.
Not only do the cities we picked from often have large active-duty military populations, but many also appeal to former service members. Nationwide, 5.3% of the population are veterans. In nearly every metro area on this list, veterans comprise a far larger share of the total population than average.
White Sands Missile Range is the number one military base in America. It is based in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The base belongs to the Army and covers 3,542,862 acres. Total personnel on the base number 1,090.
With more than 3.5 million acres, White Sands Missile Range is the nation’s largest open-air firing range. NASA also used White Sands for a training site for space shuttle pilots and as an alternative landing location for the shuttle. Satellite tests also are held there.
To identify America’s military cities, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the number of active-duty military personnel as a share of the total population at the metropolitan statistical area level.
Data on the number of active-duty servicepersons in a metro area came from the 2019 Demographics Report, originally published by Military OneSource, a U.S. Department of Defense contractor. Demographics data was aggregated from the zip-code level to the metropolitan statistical area level. Data on metro area population came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey (ACS) and are one-year estimates.
We also considered the number of veterans and dependents of active-duty service members at the metro area level. Data on veterans, or civilians who formerly served in a branch of the military but who are no longer enlisted, also came from the ACS. The total number of dependents of military personnel living in a given metro area came from the 2019 Demographics Report.
In addition, we considered metro area-level data for annual Veterans Affairs expenditures from the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics for fiscal 2019.