The Pentagon says it has spent at least $1 trillion prosecuting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and defending the U.S. homeland, according to newly released Defense Department figures through April 30.
Spending growth on Afghanistan operations helped push the Pentagon over the $1 trillion mark, increasing to $6.2 billion per month in April from $4.3 billion in the first two months of fiscal 2011 that began Oct. 1. Afghanistan spending in fiscal 2009, as Barack Obama became president, averaged $3.9 billion per month.
The spending total includes war-related operations, transportation, special combat pay and benefits, food, medical services, maintenance, replacement of lost combat equipment and building the Iraq and Afghanistan security forces.
Still, the $1 trillion does not include about $95 billion in funds appropriated but still to put on contract or paid to personnel to cover operational costs over the rest of the fiscal year as well as procurement of replacement weapons systems and construction that take years to spend, said Amy Belasco, a Congressional Research Service budget expert.
It also does not include about $100 billion the Pentagon excludes as not ‘war-related,’ such as intelligence, Belasco said. Nor does it include long-term costs for Veterans Administration care, disability costs for wounded Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, or all reconstruction funding for the war- damaged countries.
“This figure represents how much we have actually spent on the wars up to this point,” said Todd Harrison, a defense budget expert with the non-partisan Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington. “What it doesn’t tell you is how much money has been appropriated by Congress, which is $1.2 trillion. The difference between these two figures is how much money is already in the pipeline waiting to be spent.”
The Pentagon through April 30 said it has spent $691.4 billion on Iraq and $288.5 billion on Afghanistan operations. Operation Noble Eagle, aerial patrols over the continental U.S., have cost an additional $26.9 billion.
“We will likely spend another $300 billion to $500 billion on top of what is already in the pipeline,” Harrison said. “The exact amount depends on the pace at which we pull out of Afghanistan and whether or not we keep any troops in Iraq after the December 31st” withdrawal deadline, he said.
Still, “passing the trillion dollar mark stands out to people,” Harrison said.
“It draws a natural comparison to the other big budget numbers we keep hearing: a $1.6 trillion deficit this year, a proposal to raise the debt limit by $2 trillion. The cost of the wars is a hot topic given the pressure on the president to bring down troops in Afghanistan more quickly,” Harrison said.
The Office of Management and Budget estimates that the U.S. spends $10 billion annually for every 10,000 troops it has in Afghanistan.
The budget for the 2011 fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, includes $113.5 billion for Afghanistan operations and $45.8 billion for Iraq. The fiscal year 2012 request of $117.8 billion in war spending allocates $107.3 billion for Afghanistan and $10.8 billion for Iraq, where the pullout is scheduled to be completed in December.
The Afghanistan price tag is up from $56.1 billion in fiscal 2009, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen told reporters June 2 Afghanistan war costs are “right in the middle” of discussions on how quickly U.S. troops should be pulled out.
“Cost is right in the middle of the decision and has been for a significant” amount of time, he said.
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