The U.S. spends far more than any other country in the world on its military.
And at the Republican National Convention, the North Carolina Republican Party proudly announced that the Tar Heel State, more than any other, is a reflection of those policies.
“The land of the longleaf pine, the land where the summer sun doth shine, where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great,” said North Carolina delegate John Steward, introducing the state during roll call. “North Carolina, home of the largest military installations in the world.”
Does North Carolina really have the world’s largest military installations?
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We’ll narrow this claim down to just the largest U.S. bases in the world. It’s impossible to accurately verify how large various Chinese, Indian, Russian and North Korean bases (the only countries with militaries comparable in size to the U.S.) might be.
What does it mean to be the largest military base?
Biggest land area? Most air space? Most active-duty military members? Largest population in total? The most buildings and square footage? The most expensive facilities? Those are all good indicators, although we’ll give the most weight to a base’s geographic size and, especially, its military population.
The U.S. has the world’s largest military footprint, with hundreds of bases spanning the globe from Asia to Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South America.
So where does North Carolina stack up?
Two North Carolina bases are among the largest in their respective branches in terms of military population, as well as facility value – the Army’s Fort Bragg and the Marine Corps’ Camp Lejeune.
But are North Carolina’s the absolute largest, or just among the biggest?
Fort Bragg in Fayetteville is home to the 82nd Airborne, the Army Rangers and a host of other units ranging from intelligence to artillery. People there are fond of saying it has more generals than anywhere but the Pentagon, but that’s a fact check for another day. We just want to know how big it is.
At about 153,000 acres, it trails Fort Hood in Texas and Fort Benning in Georgia. And all of them are puny compared to the 900,000-acre Fort Wainwright in Alaska.
But Bragg’s population is the largest of any U.S. military base – Army or otherwise. Back in 2010, PolitiFact looked into a claim by Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who said Hood was the biggest. He got a Half True because some days Bragg had more people, and other days Hood did.
But as the war on terrorism has gone on, special operations forces are more in vogue, and Fort Bragg is where many of those units are based. As of 2015 it was substantially larger than Fort Hood.
Bragg’s entire population of soldiers and civilians is about 140,000 people. If it were a city, it would be one of the largest in North Carolina.
So North Carolina has America’s largest single military installation. But the roll call statement said it has the world’s largest installations, plural. So let’s keep looking.
North Carolina’s second-biggest base is the Marine Corps’ Camp Lejeune. Is it also the country’s second-biggest?
No. In fact, it’s not even the biggest Marine Corps base. The largest, in terms of area and population, are both in California. Twentynine Palms has a relatively small population but covers 650,000 acres, and Camp Pendleton has more Marines than Lejeune – although that hasn’t always been the case.
Lejeune had more Marines in 2008, with about 48,000 compared to 42,000 at Pendleton. But by 2013, according to Marine Corps reports, Pendleton has risen to 46,000, compared to 41,000 at Lejeune.
And what about the other branches of the military?
The Air Force and Coast Guard have some medium-sized bases in North Carolina, but Air Force bases in Nevada and Florida are significantly larger, and the Coast Guard only says its Elizabeth City base is is “one of the busiest” and even then, just in terms of air operations.
The N.C. GOP introduced itself at the Republican National Convention as hailing from the state with “the largest military installations in the world.”
North Carolina does have Fort Bragg, which has more active-duty troops than any other base in the Army – or any other branch of the military, for that matter. Camp Lejeune is also large, although it’s not the biggest Marine Corps base anymore.
A little bit of bluster is to be expected during roll call statements, which are often filled with local pride. But North Carolina’s, while exaggerated, has definite merit – due in large part to Fort Bragg. We rate this claim Mostly True.
Speaker: N.C. GOP
Statement: North Carolina is “home of the largest military installations in the world.”
Ruling: Mostly True. Nowhere has more people on active duty than Fort Bragg, but Camp Lejeune is no longer the biggest Marine Corps base. And the other branches don’t have much of a presence.