Asia Time Online - Daily News
Asia Times Chinese
AT Chinese

    Middle East
     Jul 13, 2007
Page 1 of 2
Planet Pentagon: The Earth, seas and skies

By Nick Turse

Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported on a proposal, championed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, to reduce the number of US troops in Iraq in exchange for bipartisan Congressional support for the long-term (read: more or less permanent) garrisoning of that country.

The troops are to be tucked away on "large bases far from Iraq's major cities". This plan sounded suspiciously similar to one

revealed by Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt in the New York Times on April 19, 2003, just as US troops were preparing to enter Baghdad. Headlined "Pentagon expects long-term access to four key bases in Iraq", it laid out a US plan for:
a long-term military relationship with the emerging government of Iraq, one that would grant the Pentagon access to ... perhaps four bases in Iraq that could be used in the future: one at the international airport just outside Baghdad; another at Tallil, near Nasiriya in the south; the third at an isolated airstrip called H-1 in the western desert, along the old oil pipeline that runs to Jordan; and the last at the Bashur air field in the Kurdish north.
Shortly thereafter, then-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld denied any such plans: "I have never, that I can recall, heard the subject of a permanent base in Iraq discussed in any meeting ... " and, while the bases were being built, the story largely disappeared from the mainstream media.

Even with the multi-square-kilometer, multibillion-dollar, state-of-the-art Balad Air Base and Camp Victory thrown in, however, the bases in Gates' new plan will be but a drop in the bucket for an organization that may well be the world's largest landlord. For many years, the US military has been gobbling up large swaths of the planet and huge amounts of just about everything on (or in) it. So, with the latest Pentagon Iraq plans in mind, take a quick spin with me around this Pentagon planet.

Garrisoning the globe
In 2003, Forbes magazine revealed that media mogul Ted Turner was America's top land baron - with a total of 1.8 million acres across the US. The nation's 10 largest landowners, Forbes reported, "own 10.6 million acres, or one out of every 217 acres in the country". Impressive as this total was, the Pentagon puts Turner and the entire pack of mega-landlords to shame with over 29 million acres in US landholdings. Abroad, the Pentagon's "footprint" is also that of a giant. For example, the Department of Defense controls 20% of the Japanese island of Okinawa and, according to Stars and Stripes, "owns about 25% of Guam". Mere land ownership, however, is just the tip of the iceberg.

In his 2004 book, The Sorrows of Empire, Chalmers Johnson opened the world's eyes to the size of the Pentagon's global footprint, noting that the Department of Defense (DoD) was deploying nearly 255,000 military personnel at 725 bases in 38 countries. Since then, the total number of overseas bases has increased to at least 766 and, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service, may actually be as high as 850. Still, even these numbers don't begin to capture the global sprawl of the organization that unabashedly refers to itself as "one of the world's largest 'landlords'."

The DoD's "real property portfolio", according to 2006 figures, consists of a total of 3,731 sites. Over 20% of these sites are located on more than 711,000 acres outside of the US and its territories. Yet even these numbers turn out to be a drastic undercount. For example, while a 2005 Pentagon report listed US military sites from Antigua to Kenya and Peru, some countries with significant numbers of US bases go entirely unmentioned - Afghanistan and Iraq, for example.

In Iraq, alone, in mid-2005, US forces were deployed at some 106 bases, from the massive Camp Victory, headquarters of the US high command, to small 500-troop outposts in the country's hinterlands. None of them made the Pentagon's list. Nor was there any mention of bases in Jordan on that list - or in the 2001-2005 reports either.

Yet that nation, as military analyst William Arkin has pointed out, allowed the garrisoning of 5,000 US troops at various bases around the country during the build-up to the war in Iraq. In addition, some 76 nations have given the US military access to airports and airfields - in addition to who knows where else that the Pentagon forgot to acknowledge or considers inappropriate for inclusion in its list.

Even without Jordan, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the more than 20 other nations that, Arkin noted in early 2004, were "secretly or quietly providing bases and facilities", the available statistics do offer a window into a bloated organization bent on setting up franchises across the globe. According to 2005 documents, the Pentagon acknowledges 39 nations with at least one US base, stations personnel in over 140 countries around the world, and boasts a physical plant of at least 571,900 facilities, though some Pentagon figures show 587,000 "buildings and structures". Of these, 466,599 are located in the United States or its territories. In fact, the Department of Defense owns or leases more than 75% of all federal buildings in the US.

According to 2006 figures, the army controls the lion's share of DoD land (52%), with the air force coming in second (33%), the marines (8%) and the navy (7 %) bringing up the rear. The army is also tops in total number of sites (1,742) and total number of installations (1,659). But when it comes to "large installations," those whose value tops $1,584 billion, the army is trumped by the air force, which boasts 43 mega-bases compared to the army's 39. The navy and marines possess only 29 and 10, respectively. What the navy lacks in big bases of its own, however, it more than makes up for in borrowed foreign naval bases and ports - some 251 across the globe.

Land and large installations, however, are not all that the Defense Department owns. Until relatively recently, the US Navy operated its own dairy, complete with a herd of Holsteins. Even though it did get rid of those cows in 1998, it kept the 865-acre farm tract in Gambrills, Maryland, and now leases it to Horizon Organic Dairy.

While it doesn't have a dairy, the army still operates stables - such as the John C McKinney Memorial Stables where many of the 44 horses from its ceremonial Caisson Platoon live. It also has a big farm (the Large Animal Research Facility). In fact, the Pentagon owns hundreds of thousands of animals - from rats to dogs to monkeys. In addition to an unknown number of animals used for unexplained "other purposes", in 2001 alone, the DoD utilized 330,149 creatures for various types of experimentation.

Then, there's the equipment the DoD owns, loads of it. For instance, it is the unlikely owner of "over 2,050 railcars, know[n] as the Defense Freight Rail Interchange Fleet". The DoD also reportedly ships 100,000 sea containers each year and spends $800 million annually on domestic cargo, primarily truck and rail shipments. And when it comes to trucks, the army, alone, has a fleet of 12,700 heavy expanded mobility tactical trucks (huge, eight-wheeled vehicles used to supply ammunition, petroleum, oils, and lubricants to other combat vehicles and weapons systems in the field) and 120,000 Humvees.

All told, according to a 2006 Pentagon report, the DoD had a total of at least "280 ships, 14,000 aircraft, 900 strategic missiles, and 330,000 ground combat and tactical vehicles".

The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), the DoD's largest combat support agency (with operations in 48 of the 50 states and 28 foreign countries) boasts: "If America's forces eat it, wear it, maintain equipment with it, or burn it as fuel ... DLA probably provides it". In fact, the DLA claims that it "manages" some 5.2 million items and maintains an inventory, in its Defense Distribution Depots (which stretch from Italy and Japan to Korea and Kuwait), valued at $94.1 billion.

The DLA runs the Defense National Stockpile Center (DNSC) which stores 42 "strategic and critical materials" - from zinc, lead, cobalt, chromium, and mercury (more than 9.7 million pounds of it in 2005) to precious metals such as platinum, palladium, and even industrial diamonds - at 20 locations across the US. With a stockpile valued at over $1.5 billion and $5.7 billion in sales of

Continued 1 2  

Everlasting US pyramids in Iraqi sands (Jun 9, '07)

US gets bigger ears in the sky (Feb 22, '07)

1. Pakistan's post-mortem

2. $10bn scramble for India's fighter deal     

3. The Chinese dollar hoard thunders forward

4. A fallacy that bombs - literally   

5. Death from above

6. Pakistan's iron fist is to US's liking

7. Moody's blues

8. Let's talk about sex

(24 hours to 11:59 pm ET, July 11, 2007)


All material on this website is copyright and may not be republished in any form without written permission.
Copyright 1999 - 2007 Asia Times Online (Holdings), Ltd.
Head Office: Unit B, 16/F, Li Dong Building, No. 9 Li Yuen Street East, Central, Hong Kong
Thailand Bureau: 11/13 Petchkasem Road, Hua Hin, Prachuab Kirikhan, Thailand 77110