Financial Costs of War Against Iraq and Afghanistan
|April 25, 2004||Posted by Staff under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Estimating the Financial Costs of U.S. Wars
Here is a news update from Taxpayers for Common Sense. TCS is the best organization that monitors excessive government spending, corruption and corporate welfare.
Financial Costs of War Against Iraq and Afghanistan
As heavy fighting continues in Iraq and an increasing number of questions are asked about how the Defense Department will continue to afford the increased military presence, House and Senate lawmakers are bouncing around several legislative proposals to cover the costs of ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
To date, a total of $166 billion has been allocated for Iraq and Afghanistan, yet the services are already scraping the bottom of the financial barrel and it is unclear how much more they are going to cost us. One lowball estimate assumes that increased violence in Iraq will push the cost of the war over budget by as much as $4 billion. However, this figure will only carry us through to the late summer and doesn’t take into consideration the billions in additional funding that’s needed for reconstruction efforts.
The majority of the $4 billion will fund the extended stay of some 20,000 troops at roughly $700 million more per month. [The Progress Report observes -- that is a cost of $35,000 per person per month. That sounds ridiculously high.] However, based on our own review of documents from the Coalitional Provisional Authority, we estimate that current reconstruction efforts will require at least another $500 million over the course of the next six months because of cost overruns.
Additionally, the military has identified unmet funding needs for items such as equipment and weapons for troops in Iraq. The Army has publicly identified nearly $6 billion in requests that did not make the defense budget for 2005, including $132 million for vehicle armor; $879 million for helmets, underwear, boots and other clothing; and $21.5 million for automatic weapons, just to name a few examples.
The Pentagon is saying that the war in Iraq is costing an estimated $4.7 billion a month, which doesn’t include the billion a month for continued efforts in Afghanistan. Up until now, all of these efforts have been funded through two emergency supplemental bills, but defense officials are now studying their annual budget, which runs through Sept. 30, to determine whether some money can be moved from purchase programs or other Pentagon accounts. Lawmakers expect to have the next defense spending bill in place by the beginning of the fiscal 2005 budget on October 1. However, since President Bush’s proposed budget does not provide for U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Congress’s version of the bill is not likely to cover these costs either. Nevertheless, legislators say the Pentagon could use money from that bill until extra money for the war is provided.
Both Republicans and Democrats are saying that we need to bring up the new spending bill before November. But, White House officials have already said they would propose a separate bill after this fall’s elections – costing up to $50 billion – to pay for the two wars, and they claim that their timing is based on what the commanders in the field feel is necessary. We don’t know which commanders the White House is listening to, but the leadership of the military services has been pretty clear. In February, Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, said he was concerned, “on how we bridge between the end of this fiscal year and whenever we could get a supplemental in the next year.”
As part of the efforts to keep this war looking cheap, the administration officials have been downplaying the costs since the start. Rumsfeld would repeat ad nauseam the costs of war are “unknowable” and Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels claimed the cost was around $50 billion. In April 2003, Andrew S. Natsios, chief of the U.S. Agency for International Development provided an estimate of the costs to U.S. taxpayers of rebuilding Iraq, claiming, “The American part of this will be $1.7 billion.”
The administration, which asked Congress for another $20 billion for Iraq reconstruction just five months after Natsios’ assertion, has said it expects overall Iraqi reconstruction costs to be as much as $75 billion this year alone. Natsios was far from the only one to offer lowball figures. A report by the White House Office of Management and Budget in late March 2003, even claimed that Iraq “will not require sustained aid.”
We definitely understand why the administration doesn’t want an Iraq spending bill. As the true costs become more “knowable,” a growing number of Americans are coming down with a case of sticker shock. A growing chorus of Capitol Hill lawmakers doesn’t want a decision regarding aid for our troops to be delayed by election year politics. We suggest that they soften the spending increases by cutting obsolete cold war relic weapons programs that really aren’t helping us on the ground in Iraq.
For more information, contact Keith Ashdown at (202)-546-8500 ext. 110 or by email at email@example.com
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