The Perfect Soldier: Special Operations, Commandos, and the Future of Us Warfare by James F. Dunnigan
More Books by James Dunnigan
Dirty Little Secrets
The True Cost of Overseas Bases
Discussion Board on this DLS topic
by James Dunnigan
April 18, 2005
Stationing American forces overseas has not always been as large a financial
burden on the United States that it appeared to be. As the economies in West
Germany and Japan recovered after World War II, they reached a point where the
United States demanded, and got, payments from those countries to cover part of
the expense of keeping American troops there. Since then, Japan and Germany have
paid over a hundred billion dollars in such payments, and since 1991, even South
Korea has made similar payments. South Koreaís payments are now $661 million a
year, but are being cut 8.9 percent to reflect the withdrawal of some American
While the cost of maintaining troops overseas is high, itís not
as high as stated. The American troops would be paid and maintained wherever
they were, and duty in Europe was always seen as a recruiting tool. The tours
there were three years, and you could bring you family. Perhaps the biggest loss
to American taxpayers was that American troops overseas spent most of their pay
overseas. This cost lots of American jobs, and a vibrant example of that can be
seen when American units are sent to Iraq for a year, and the businesses around
their U.S. bases suffer economically for as long as the troops are away.
Fortunately, the troops in Iraq canít do much shopping, and spend most of their
pay when they get home.†
But for most American troops overseas, the main
additional cost is travel. The troops are moved economically, usually on
chartered aircraft. Thereís also the additional expense of shipping ammunition
and new equipment. Although in places like Europe and East Asia, a lot of
equipment can be purchased locally.
Itís an accounting nightmare
calculating what the exact ďadditional costĒ of having troops overseas is. But
in the long run, it isnít as high as the numbers thrown around in the media.
Iraq may even decide that itís in its best interest to have some American troops
permanently stationed there (for protection from their ancient enemy, Iran). In
that case, oil rich Iraq will be under some pressure to pick up part of the tab.
In the case of South Korea, all the money they contributed went to pay South
Koreans working on American bases, and for supplies bought locally. The South
Koreans wanted the American troops to stay, to aid in protecting them from North
Korean aggression. Itís a form of peacekeeping that American troops overseas
donít get enough credit for.