This is Actually How Much Land the Military Owns, New Map Reveals. (It's More Than You Think.)

The Army owns land in 45 countries and 8 U.S. territories

When thinking of the biggest global real estate barons, the U.S. military might not come to mind, but it probably should. The Navy Times reports that the Defense Department has acquired nearly 27 million acres of land in 45 countries and eight U.S. territories. The vast majority of that is in the United States. Read on to find out how much land the military owns, where it's distributed in the U.S., and why.  

1
Military's Real Estate Holdings: $749 Billion

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According to data in the 2018 budget, the Defense Department's land holdings amount to 26.9 million acres worth $749 billion. Ninety-eight percent of that is in the U.S., although the military owns large parcels of land in Germany, Japan, and South Korea, the Navy Times says. The Army controls the most land in the portfolio at 51%, with the Air Force coming in second at 32%.

2
How Much of Your State Does the Military Own?

Visual Capitalist

The site Visual Capitalist created a map illustrating how much of each U.S. state is owned by the military. "This map visualizes the share of a state comprised by military sites, which the Department of Defense defines as a specific geographic location that has individual land parcels or facilities assigned to it," the site says. "The geographical location is leased to, owned by, or otherwise under the jurisdiction of the DoD."

3
States With the Most Military-Owned Land

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The five states with the most land owned by the Defense Department (by percentage) include:

  • Hawaii: 5.6%
  • New Mexico: 5%
  • Nevada: 5%
  • Arizona: 4.2%
  • California: 3.7%

The states that have the least include South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Michigan, and West Virginia, with less than 0.1%.

4
The Largest Military-Owned Sites in the U.S.

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The largest military-owned site is White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, which spans more than 3.5 million acres. 

The next four largest sites are:

  • Nellis Air Force Range (Nevada): 3.1 million acres
  • Fort Bliss (Texas): 1.3 million acres
  • Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range (Arizona): 1.1 million acres
  • Yuma Proving Ground (Arizona): 1 million acres

5
Why Does the Military Own So Much Land?

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"Military bases are used for training and housing soldiers, testing weapons and equipment, conducting research, and running active operations, among other things," says the Visual Capitalist. "A large majority of the square footage is actually designated for family housing" for the five branches of the armed services. For example, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, is big enough to be its own city. One of the largest military bases in the world, it's home to 54,000 military personnel. 

Most of the military's land is located in the southwestern U.S.; that's because the large but sparsely populated stretches of land in states like Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico allow for weapons testing (including nuclear weapons) without endangering civilians. The first atomic bomb was tested at the huge and highly isolated White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more
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