U.S. Military Dispositions: Fact Sheet

U.S. Military Dispositions: Fact Sheet
Edward F. Bruner
Specialist in Foreign Affairs
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
The United States maintains a global military presence to support foreign policy and
military strategy. Representation ranges from one Marine in Sierra Leone to an Army
Corps in Germany, and is found in 144 nations. In some countries, presence is maintained
continuously and service members are assigned tours of one to three years. In other
countries, there may be short term deployments of units or teams in response to
emergencies or training opportunities. This report describes the worldwide distribution
of U.S. military personnel and related concerns of Congress. It will be updated quarterly.
The table below is a snapshot of active duty military distribution compiled by the
Department of Defense (DOD) for June 30, 2006. These statistics are normally published
quarterly — on any given day exact numbers differ. Rotation of replacement personnel
and units occurs regularly at traditional overseas bases, while one-time spikes can occur
anywhere the United States may be involved in a crisis situation. In 1996, for example,
there were 15,000 U.S. soldiers deployed in Bosnia — but today there are 256. On any
day, also, many military personnel are afloat on ships. On this day, there were 126,613
men and women at sea or in temporary ports, included and distributed throughout the
territorial waters of the United States and the several regions shown in the table.
Geographic Distribution of U.S. Military Personnel (AD)a
Total Number on Active Duty1,381,401
United States and Territories b1,092,586
Europe and Former Soviet Union b97,658
East Asia and Pacific b78,369
Africa, Near East, and South Asia b8,254
Western Hemisphere (excluding USA)2,112
Undistributed b102,422
Source: DOD, Worldwide Manpower Distribution by Geographical Area, June 30, 2006a
Notes:Comparable data not available for Reserve Components; however, on Jan.24,
2007, there were 91,344 RC personnel called to Active Duty (OASD-RA).b
Included are those assigned AD troops now deployed with the 203,700 AD,
Reserve, and National Guard members of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom
in Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan who are undistributed or accounted for in the
United States, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, and United Kingdom.

Forward Presence. Forward presence remains an important component of U.S.
military strategy; in the Cold War it supported containment, but now it primarily supports
regional stability and the Global War on Terrorism. Advantages derived: assures friends
and allies of U.S. commitments; deters potential regional aggressors; places forces closer
to crisis response sites; and, provides a physical and human infrastructure for global
military response capabilities. Disadvantages: additional costs to maintain forces
overseas (personnel and operating costs 10-20% above Continental U.S.); may make it
easier to act or be expected to act as “world policeman”; adds to “over commitment” of
downsized forces; and, potential to attract political or environmental complaints.
Trends. After the Cold War ended, overall size of the U.S. Armed Forces declined
while operating tempo increased. The number of forces permanently stationed overseas
declined — especially in Europe. Whereas 33% of the Army was stationed overseas in
1989, the figure is now 16% (not including deployments – now 24% in Iraq, Kuwait, and
Afghanistan). The Clinton Administration decided to stabilize U.S. presence in Europe
at about 100,000 troops, down from 300,000 in the past. Presence in the Pacific region
was also stabilized at about 100,000 focused in volatile Northeast Asia, where some
30,000 troops are in South Korea and 34,000 in Japan. (The Bush Administration is in
the process of changing the global stationing posture.) While such presence stationing is
normal and expected by individual uniformed personnel, temporary deployments for
humanitarian or peacekeeping purposes, joint and combined training, and actual conflicts
increased after the Cold War and remain high. Units for these missions come from both
overseas and stateside bases. Today, U.S. activities include land, water, and air operations
in and around Iraq, former Yugoslavia, Korea, Afghanistan, and other areas critical to the
War on Terrorism.
Costs and Burdensharing. Overseas presence and engagement commitments raise
questions about costs. Broad questions involve how much the nation should devote to
maintaining influence abroad and world-power capabilities and whether there are cheaper
ways to do so. The United States has already shifted emphasis from forward presence to
power projection. Cost savings from bringing forces home may be reduced by the need
to compensate with greater airlift, sealift, and pre-positioning. Because U.S. presence is
normally in the interest of both the host nation and the United States, there has often been
pressure to have hosts pay more of the costs. For analysis of these complicated issues, see
CRS Report 95-726, Defense Budget: Alternative Measures of Costs of Military
Commitments Abroad, and CRS Report 94-515, Defense Burdensharing: Is Japan’s Host
Nation Support a Model for Other Allies?, both by Stephen Daggett.
Congressional Actions. Since late in the Cold War, Congress has set ceilings on
U.S. forward presence primarily by limiting the numbers of troops ashore allowed in
Europe — currently 100,000. In the defense authorization act for FY1999 (P.L. 105-261),
Congress again directed the President to seek increased burdensharing by each nation that
has cooperative military relations with the United States. Congress authorized, but did
not require, several measures that the President could use to encourage nations to increase
such efforts. For FY2001 (H.R. 4205), Congress directed GAO to study costs and
benefits for U.S. military activities in Europe — see reports GAO-02-174 and GAO-02-
99. Congress established an Overseas Basing Commission to study the Bush
Administration’s rebasing plans; it reported in May 2005 (see
[http://fido.gov/obc/default.asp]). Temporary deployments by the President may be
reported to Congress under provisions of the War Powers Act.