A new study has found that the state of New Mexico has the No. 18 highest concentration of active and reservist military members of any state with 839.7 service members per 100,000 residents. The national average is 780 per 100,000.
Military enlistment has declined dramatically over the past several decades, falling from about 3.5 million at the height of the Vietnam War to just 1.3 million active-duty service members today. Yet, with hundreds of thousands of men and women deployed across the world and some 7,000 lives claimed in the war against terrorism, the stakes for military families have never been higher.
Security.org today released its study, States Carrying the Greatest Military Burden, which analyzes U.S. Department of Defense data on military service, including where service members are stationed, which types of people are most likely to join the military and which states have seen the highest numbers of in-service deaths.
Here are key findings in New Mexico:
- New Mexico has the No. 18 highest population-adjusted rate of active-duty and reserve personnel stationed in the state (839.7 per 100,000) and the No. 31 highest overall number (17,596).
- About 9.3 percent of New Mexico residents are military veterans.
- New Mexico Military War Death Rates: Korean (29.36 per 100,000), Vietnam (38.98), Gulf (0.13) and Terrorism (2.91).
Here are key national findings:
- California (214,922) has the highest overall number of active-duty and reserve/National Guard service members. Vermont (3,575) has the lowest.
- Michigan’s population-adjusted rate of current military service is the lowest in the country, 174.6 per 100,000.
- 7.3 percent of Americans are military veterans, though when looking only at men, that number rises to 13.6 percent.
- In only two states did the Korean War claim a larger concentration of lives than the Vietnam War — Hawaii (81.43 per 100,000) and Vermont (24.88).
At the height of the Vietnam War in 1968, a year that saw President Lyndon Johnson raise troop levels in East Asia to nearly 550,000, the total number of active-duty American servicemembers was more than 3.5 million.
Today, there are about 1.3 million active-duty members of the military, and fewer than 200,000 of them are stationed overseas — but, of course, our country isn’t technically in the midst of a foreign ground war. That’s not to say that Americans aren’t still being killed in support of military operations around the globe: As recently as August 2019 (nearly two decades after the initial invasion that followed the 9/11 attacks), multiple U.S. servicemembers were killed in Afghanistan.
As the U.S. population has continued to expand rapidly, the number of Americans bearing the burden of service to their country has fallen, concentrating the sacrifices of military life in fewer and fewer hands.
About 2 percent of Americans in 1968 were serving in the military; today, that percentage is closer to 0.4 percent.
But military expenditures represent nearly $600 billion in the federal budget for 2019, and dozens of cities across the country rely on military bases and installations to support their economies.
That led us to wonder which states seem to be carrying the largest load when it comes to military operations.
To understand that, we looked at data from the U.S. Department of Defense, the Defense Manpower Center, the National Archives and the U.S. Census Bureau. What we found was that not only has the burden of military service shrunk over time but there’s a great deal of variation across the country when it comes to current military service as well as deaths from past military action.
Current Military Members
Today there are more than 2 million people listed as active-duty members of the U.S. military or the National Guard/military reserve, and only about 10 percent of them are stationed overseas. That means that the vast majority of American military service members are permanently assigned to jobs here in the United States.
The sheer numbers of service members assigned by state largely tracks with the personnel figures from the various military installations across the country, with California, Texas, Virginia and North Carolina making up the top four of military members stationed by state and base personnel assigned by state.