War costs hit $10 billion a month
WASHINGTON – With the expected passage this spring of the largest emergency spending bill in history, annual war expenditures in Iraq will have nearly doubled since the U.S. invasion, as the military confronts the rapidly escalating cost of repairing, rebuilding and replacing equipment chewed up by three years of combat.
The cost of the war in U.S. fatalities has declined this year, but the cost in treasure continues to rise, from $48 billion in 2003 to $59 billion in 2004 to $81 billion in 2005 to an anticipated $94 billion in 2006, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. The U.S. government is now spending nearly $10 billion a month in Iraq and Afghanistan, up from $8.2 billion a year ago, a new Congressional Research Service report found.
Annual war costs in Iraq are easily outpacing the $61 billion a year that the United States spent in Vietnam between 1964 and 1972, in today’s dollars. The invasion’s “shock and awe” of high-tech laser-guided bombs, cruise missiles and stealth aircraft has long faded, but the costs of even those early months are just coming into view as the military confronts equipment repair and rebuilding costs it has avoided and procurement costs it never expected.
“We did not predict early on that we would have the number of electronic jammers that we’ve got. We did not predict we’d have as many (heavily) armored vehicles that we have, nor did we have a good prediction about what our battle losses would be,” Army Chief of Staff Peter Schoomaker recently told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“If you look at the earlier estimates of anticipated costs, this war is a lot more expensive than it should be based on past conflicts,” said Steven Kosiak, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments’ director of budget studies.
The issue will be hotly debated next week when the Senate takes up a record $106.5 billion emergency spending bill that includes $72.4 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The House passed a $92 billion version of the bill last month that included $68 billion in war funding. That funding comes on top of $50 billion already allocated for the war this fiscal year.
The bill is the fifth emergency defense request since the Iraq invasion in March 2003. Senate Democrats say that, in the end, they will vote for the measure, which congressional leaders plan to deliver to President Bush by Memorial Day. But the upcoming debate will offer opponents of the war ample opportunity to question the Bush administration’s funding priorities.