U.S. Bearing Most of Financial Burden for Overseas Bases, Says Report

Mike O'Brien

The U.S. is bearing too much of the financial burden for bases in Germany, Japan and South Korea, a new report says.

The study by the Senate Armed Services Committee, which comes after a year-long investigation, states that the U.S. spends more than $10 billion a year (excluding personnel costs) to back up the U.S. military presence overseas, with 70 percent of that spent in the three countries.

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The financial contributions by the host countries are lagging well behind, even though the U.S. is reducing the number of troops on Europe and is giving back a growing number of facilities to those hosts.

Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the committee, said: "The growth in our share has really been pretty stunning. And I think we’ve got to stop that direction. We cannot carry these greater and greater and greater percentages of the costs of maintaining these facilities. The ones that we give back, we’re going to have to be given appropriate consideration for the improvements, and the ones that we keep will have to have a much fairer burden-sharing than has been the case in the last 10 years."

U.S. troop reductions has led to excess military facilities. But instead of getting cash for the buildings, the U.S. has been negotiating residual value, in-kind payments of services or facilities with a cash value.

Cash payments would be placed in an account and only used for maintenance, repair and environmental restoration. In-kind payments can be directed to military construction.

The committee identified some questionable military construction projects from this arrangement, including $200,000 which was spent adding sunrooms to senior officer homes in Stuttgart, Germany, the Associated Press reports.

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The report says: "Before the 200-square-foot additions, the homes were each 2,490 square feet, well above DoD’s minimum size standard."

The report also found that the U.S. has negotiated the return of more than 100 facilities to Germany (with a current value of $1.1 billion) since 2005, but they haven’t been included in the residual value settlements between the two countries.

In South Korea, where there are 28,500 troops, the U.S. plans to move its forces from the Yongsan Garrison in Seoul to Camp Humphreys, about 40 miles south of the capital. South Korea gets prime real estate in downtown Seoul, while the U.S. must provide most of the military family housing and cover the $7 billion cost.

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