The Congressional Research Service has just sent to Congress its latest update of the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, “The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11,” dated July 16, 2007.
Important elements of the new report include the following:
Assuming Congress’ approval of President George W. Bush’s request for war costs for the upcoming fiscal year 2008 (a request of $141.7 billion), total appropriations related to the wars would reach $758 billion, including $567 billion for Iraq, $157 billion for Afghanistan, $29 billion for other security operations in the US and elsewhere, and $5 billion which can be attributed to “unknown” due to the Defense Department’s inability to track its own money. (See second to last paragraph in the report’s “Summary.”)
Counting all war appropriations to date, including those for not just DOD but also the State Department and the VA, costs per month have risen from about $12 billion in FY 2006 to about $14.4 billion in FY 2007. (See p. 3)
2007 costs total $173 billion. Of that amount, $135.2 billion is for Iraq, and $36.9 billion is for Afghanistan.
In addition to the extra costs of the “surge” of troops in Iraq, the increase in costs from 2006 to 2007 is explained by a dramatic increase in procurement spending to replace warn out equipment and to move acquisition costs for routine modernization (such as for V-22s and C-17s) from the regular annual budget to the separate budget for the war. (See p. 18-19)
Current plans anticipate a reduction of spending in 2008: down to a total of $147.5 billion, of which $116.3 billion would be for Iraq. However, that plan assumes that the “surge” of US troops would terminate abruptly on September 30, 2007. (See p. 6) It would appear logical to assess that a continuation of the surge would require funding above the 2007 total if the size of the US deployment in Iraq and the tempo of operations continue at their present rate for more than six months in FY 2008.
Cost per deployed troop has increased from $320,000 for each troop in 2003 to $390,000 for each in 2006. (See p. 24)
CRS, CBO, and GAO each continue to find major discrepancies in DOD’s reporting on annual expenditures. (See p. 26) GAO’s Comptroller General reported that the continuing inability of DOD to account for its own spending “make it difficult to reliably know what the war is costing, to determine how appropriated funds are being spent, and to use historical data to predict future trends.” (See p. 28)
DOD may be “front loading” its budget requests for “reset” (repair and refurbishment of equipment and units) by requesting funds twice for both the Army and the Marine Corps for reset in 2007. (See p. 32)
While the Congressional Budget Office has made nominal estimates for the future costs of the wars (ranging from $393 billion to $840 billion [See p. 10]), the actual future costs of the wars is truly unknown, especially if one includes long term costs for the wars’ veterans as paid out over decades by the VA. Beyond federal appropriations, there are also other costs, such as to the economy, that have been measured by other studies.
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WINSLOW T. WHEELER is the Director of the Straus Military Reform Project of the Center for Defense Information and author of The Wastrels of Defense. Over 31 years, he worked for US Senators from both political parties and the Government Accountability Office on national security issues.