This is actually how much land the army owns, the map reveals.


When thinking of the world’s biggest real estate barons, the US military may not come to mind, but it probably should. The navy time reports that the Department of Defense has acquired nearly 27 million acres of land in 45 countries and eight US territories. The vast majority are in the United States. Read on to find out how much land the military owns, where it’s distributed in the United States, and why.


According to Budget 2018 data, Department of Defense land holdings amount to 26.9 million acres worth $749 billion. Ninety-eight percent of that is in the United States, although the military owns large tracts of land in Germany, Japan and South Korea, according to the Navy Times. The military controls the most land in the portfolio at 51%, with the air force coming second at 32%.

visual capitalist

The website visual capitalist created a map illustrating the share of each US state held by the military. “This map visualizes the portion of a state made up of military sites, which the Department of Defense defines as a specific geographic location to which individual parcels of land or facilities are assigned,” the site says. “The geographic location is leased, owned by, or otherwise under the jurisdiction of the DoD.”


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

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

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


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

The following four most important 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

“Military bases are used to train and house soldiers, test weapons and equipment, conduct research and conduct active operations, among other things, explains the Visual Capitalist. “A large majority of the square footage is actually intended for family quarters” for the five branches of the armed forces. For example, Fort Bragg, North Carolina is big enough to be its own city. One of the largest military bases in the world, it houses 54,000 military personnel.

Most Army lands are located in the Southwestern United States; that’s because the vast tracts of sparsely populated land in states like Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico allow weapons testing (including nuclear weapons) without endangering civilians. The first atomic bomb was tested at the huge and very isolated White Sands Missile range in New Mexico.


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