The U.S. defense budget – by far the largest of any country in the world – is the subject of regular controversy. But while multi-billion dollar weapons development programs that blow past deadlines and through budgets will always be subject to political scrutiny, much of America’s annual military spending is less controversial. Nearly one-quarter of the $718 billion in U.S. military spending in fiscal 2021 went to pay and retirement benefits for service members. (Here is a look at the failed weapons the U.S. wasted the most money on.)
Though there are thousands of active-duty U.S. military personnel deployed abroad and on ships at sea, the vast majority of American troops are stationed at bases within the United States. Across the country, there are hundreds of military bases that are collectively home to over 1 million active-duty personnel and their families. These domestic military installations vary considerably in personnel capacity, and many of them have populations equivalent to that of a mid-size city.
Using the Department of Defense’s report Demographics Profile of the Military Community for 2019 – the most recent year of comprehensive data by base – 24/7 Wall St. identified the largest military base in each state. For the purposes of this story, only bases housing at least 100 active-duty military personnel for the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and DOD were considered.
In nearly every state, there is at least one military base with more than 1,000 troops, and in half of all states there are bases home to over 13,000 service members. In only three states – Iowa, Oregon, and West Virginia – there are no bases with 100 or more troops.
The Army is the largest branch of the U.S. military by headcount, and the largest share of bases on this list – 20 in total – are Army bases. Meanwhile, the Air Force manages the largest base in 17 states, while eight bases on this list are under the purview of the U.S. Navy. The Marine Corps and DOD each control one.
Some veterans and military members will be familiar with some of the bases on this list as the place where their career in the armed services began. The Army uses Fort Benning, Georgia; Fort Jackson, South Carolina; Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; and Fort Sill, Oklahoma, for basic training, and each of these bases ranks as the largest base in its state. The naval base used for boot camp also appears on this list. (Here is a look at what it takes to be in 16 of America’s elite military forces.)
Other bases – including several bases larger than those used for basic training – serve a variety of functions, including operational support, maintaining deployment-ready forces, and continued advanced training.