Are Overseas Bases Worth the Bucks?

An Approach to Assessing Operational Value and an Application to the Philippines

by Katharine Watkins Webb

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In order to maintain a military presence in many parts of the world the United States relies on access to foreign bases. While there has always been debate in the United States over the need to maintain forces overseas, host governments have generally been supportive of these arrangements. However, as many of these host countries seek to establish their own political identity, the political and economic costs of hosting U.S. military forces tend to rise. This study describes and applies a methodology to address one aspect of the value of overseas bases. It examines the costs of replacing a base's capabilities using alternative locations and means. This methodology is applied to the U.S. facilities in the Philippines, which are currently the subject of negotiations. A wide range of capabilities are provided by these bases to support objectives in many locations. While many of the capabilities provided in the Philippines can be replicated by moving to alternative locations and procuring additional ships and aircraft, future operating costs are likely to be higher than the current aid package paid to the Philippines, roughly $250 million in FY 1988. In an era of tight budgets it is necessary to evaluate the importance of these capabilities, and the objectives they support, relative to other capabilities and objectives, before replacing the capabilities now provided in the Philippines. This study gives a range of values for the Philippines bases but does not compare them to other bases. The application of this methodology to other overseas bases would enable comparison across bases and across methods of supporting the current objectives of overseas bases.

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