Maintaining these facilities comes with a large price tag. In July, Congress approved $717 billion in military spending for fiscal 2019. Though much of the funding goes toward paying military service men and women — there are more than 1.1 million active duty service men and women on bases in U.S. — the bill covers the development of weapons systems, strategic defense technology, as well as maintaining base operations.
Many of the bases were built during World War I, and a handful are older. As one might expect, the biggest of the military installations are in the physically largest states — Alaska, Texas, California, New Mexico, and Arizona.
The western states are less constrained by geography, have vast swaths of desert, and are less densely populated than the eastern part of the nation. California has dozens of military installations that use the desert and the Pacific Ocean to test weaponry.
Three military installations — Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, Fort Bliss in Texas, and White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico — each span more than 1 million acres. White Sands is larger than such states as Rhode Island and Connecticut.
In addition to their enormous physical footprint, these bases also have significant economic impacts on their communities. According to an analysis in 2015 by the Department of Defense, military spending as a share of the state GDP was highest in Virginia (11.8%), followed by Hawaii (9.9%). In dollar amounts, military spending was highest in Virginia, totaling $53 billion, and second highest in California, at $49.3 billion.
To create the list of the nation’s largest military bases, 24/7 Wall Street used data compiled by the Department of Defense’s Base Structure Report for fiscal year 2017. The report includes the physical size of military installations in acres. Personnel counts data was obtained from the 2016 Demographics Report, compiled by Defense Department contractor Military OneSource.
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