The Department of Defense is one of the federal government’s largest agencies. With nearly $1.8 trillion in budgetary resources in fiscal 2023, the DOD trails only the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Health and Human Services in annual spending. With 2.7 million Americans working for the Defense Department, about one out of every $11 dollars in the Pentagon’s budget goes toward payroll, including for the more than 1.1 million active-duty service men and women.
Each of the 50 states is home to thousands of Defense Department personnel – from civilian employees and reservists to troops enlisted in each of the major branches of military service. (These are the 25 countries where the most people serve in the military.)
Using data from the DOD report Defense Spending By State Fiscal Year 2021, 24/7 Wall St. identified the states with the most Defense Department personnel. States are ranked by the number of Defense Department personnel in each state, including civilian workers, reservists, and active-duty service members.
While some of the most populous states in the country rank highly on this list, including California, Texas, and Florida, the number of military personnel in a given state is often attributable to the presence of one or more major military bases, some of which house thousands of military personnel and their families. Virginia, for example, is home to the Norfolk Naval Station, the largest Navy base in the world. Partially as a result, the state is home to more Defense Department personnel than all but one other state, even though it does not rank among the 10 largest states by population.
Similarly, New York is the fourth largest state by population. Still, 13 states are home to more military personnel than New York.
The presence of active-duty military and other Defense Department personnel can have a meaningful economic impact. In over half of all states, payroll alone for these individuals brought in over $1 billion in 2021. Including Pentagon spending with military contractors, defense spending accounted for over 11% of Virginia’s total gross domestic product in 2021. (These are the states where the U.S. military spends the most money.)
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