Which States Carry the Greatest Military Burden?

Scott Repasky
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Current Military Members

Every year, billions of dollars are spent on Department of Defense (DoD) operations in different parts of the world. DoD programs and installations are located in every state, plus the District of Columbia. The DoD directly employs more than 700,000 civilian and military personnel, and an additional 3 million civilians and 1.5 million military personnel are employed by contractors or subsidiary organizations throughout the U.S. In addition to DoD installations and employees, active duty members who were stationed in a state at the time of recruitment, or who are stationed there while on active duty, are residents of that state.

The 10 states with the most current and former military members as of September 30, 2015, are listed below. Together, these 10 states account for 39.9% of US military members.

Alabama 62,801.

California 52,799.

Florida 60,308.

Georgia 66,643.

Hawaii 6,243.

Kentucky 21,294.

Massachusetts 30,284.

Mississippi 14,376.

North Carolina 60,391.

Texas 132,081.

With the exception of Mississippi and Kentucky, the above states are among the most populated states in the U.S. So, should we assume that a high percentage of active duty members come from the most populated states? Not exactly.

Veteran Status

Military veterans tend to live in states with higher cost of living. This is because the U.S. has more veterans than any other nation in the world. The majority of vets are between the ages of 25 and 34, which is when people establish themselves in the workforce and start families. The average income of veterans, who serve in the National Guard or Reserve, is about the same as non-veterans.

However, the lower cost of living in some of the states with a high number of veterans balances out the higher cost of living of the veteran states. For example, Virginia is ranked at number 7 in the Cost of Living Index and number 12 when it comes to the number of veterans with veterans accounting for 1.7% of the total population in the state. On the other hand, the state of New York , where people pay more for goods and services, has one of the highest populations of veterans in the country, with 3.4% of the population being veterans.

Here, we examine the states that have the greatest number of military veterans.

All Gave Some, Some Gave All

It has never been fair to compare states in terms of the amount of “weight” each carries to support the military. The vital job of maintaining our nation’s military should always be valued and it should always be understood that each state and territory contributes to the national security in a different way.

The responsibility for this task is shared equally between the states. All of the states, and the U.S. territories, have their own governments and their own methods for supporting our men and women who are fighting for our freedom. In many ways, it’s our diversity that helps us become stronger. In other ways, it’s created a situation where each part of the country feels alone and separated.

Every state has it’s own way of contributing to the Armed Forces and to the military, and the state’s influence on the military depends upon its location, economic status, and Federal funding.

So is it fair to compare the “weigh” of a state to another? Let’s look at each part of the country and see how we can “lift up” and become stronger together.


States we commonly associate with big military bases like Texas and Virginia have relatively low personnel percentage while states that are more likely to favor cutting military spending and rely on social services were most heavily shielded from the cuts.

The state of California for example is home to about a third of all active duty military personnel but local military spending comprised only 10 percent of its state budget. The state of Alaska is the location for fewer than 10,000 active duty military personnel but local military spending made up more than 10 percent of its state budget.

Different states take on different financial burdens to support the defense industry. Although state tax stop driving military spending.

Consider the state of Alaska. The state is home to fewer active duty military personnel than West Virginia, but local military spending accounts for almost 12 percent of Alaska’s state budget. The cost of supporting the military personnel is a strain on the state budget. Community leaders have to find ways to increase the amount of money from the federal government.

The same goes for California. Since the state hosts more than a third of all active duty military personnel, there are a lot of demands on the state budget. The state is forced to find the money regardless of what their state policy may be.

About This Story

The United States has a standing military force of roughly 1.4 million and counting. According to a Congressional Research Service study in 2012, of the total 2.1 million Americans on active duty, 1.2 million were members of the Army, and the remaining 800,000 were spread among the other services.

A disproportionate number of these forces are located in the states that carry the greatest financial burden of maintaining the national defense. On this list are 10 states that pay a bigger share of the cost of keeping the U.S. safe than others. In all, these areas account for 34.8% of all active-duty personnel, but only 26.5% of the total U.S. population.

"In the case of Utah, for example, as a percentage of the statewide population, it’s about 1.6% of the total residents in that state are within active military duty." says John Goheen, Director of Media Relations at National Priorities Project.

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