20th March 01:16
Iraq Cost Could Mount to $100 Billion!
From The Washington Post, 7/13/03:
Iraq Cost Could Mount to $100 Billion
Impact on Other Programs Feared
By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 13, 2003; Page A22
The cost of the war and occupation of Iraq could reach $100 billion
through next year, substantially higher than anticipated at the war's
outset, according to defense and congressional aides.
This is raising worries that other military needs will go unmet while
the government is swamped in red ink.
The cost of the war so far, about $50 billion, already represents a 14
percent increase to military spending planned for this year.
Even before the United States invaded Iraq in March, President Bush
had proposed defense budgets through 2008 that would rise to $460
billion a year, up 74 percent from the $265 billion spent on defense
in 1996, when the current buildup began.
At the same time, the federal budget deficit is exploding.
This week, officials expect to announce that it will exceed $400
billion for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, the largest in U.S.
history by a wide margin.
Former White House budget director Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. said last
month the deficit should be smaller next year, but economists at
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. -- factoring rising war costs -- said Friday
the deficit may climb even higher than their previous $475 billion
"It's already unclear whether [the Bush defense buildup] is
sustainable," said Steven M. Kosiak, a defense budget ****yst at the
Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
"Add another $50 billion, and it's doubly unclear."
Administration officials concede that spending levels in Iraq are
considerably higher than anticipated.
At the onset of war, Dov Zakheim, the Pentagon's chief financial
officer, said post-combat operations were expected to cost about $2.2
billion a month.
By early June, he had adjusted that forecast to $3 billion.
But with about 145,000 U.S. troops still in Iraq, some under fire,
costs have continued to climb.
The average monthly "burn rate" from January to April, a span
encompassing the "heavy combat" phase of the war, was $4.1 billion,
That is not much higher than current expenditure rate of $3.9 billion
a month for the occupation, even though most of the Navy and Air Force
contingents have been sent home.
"We've peaked out," Zakheim said, "but we are still there in a way
that we perhaps didn't think we would be at this point."
Defense experts worry that the cost of actual operations in Iraq
understates the impact of those operations on military and federal
Indirect costs of a protracted conflict could include new funding for
military recruiting and the retention of exhausted troops ready to
leave the services, Kosiak said.
If 100,000 or more troops remain in Iraq a year from now, there will
be political pressure to increase the overall size of the Army.
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), chairman of the Armed Services
Committee, said Friday he would seek to add two new heavy divisions to
the existing 10, or as many as 32,000 troops.
Hunter inserted language in the defense authorization bill pending in
Congress to prohibit any base closings that would harm the Army's
ability to field 12 divisions.
During the 2000 presidential campaign, Republicans contended that
President Clinton had stretched the military too thin with the
deployment of 10,000 troops in the Balkans, Kosiak noted.
Now, there are 16 times that many soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan
alone, and the grumbling is beginning again.
Sens. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) practically
pleaded with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for a larger Army
when he appeared last week before the Armed Services Committee.
"I know your close communications with the [Army] Reserve component
will convince you, as it's convinced me and many of the members of
this panel, that there's got to be relief," Inhofe told Rumsfeld.
Right now, the Army's 3rd and 4th Infantry divisions, 3rd Armored
Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, 101st Airborne
Division, 1st Armored Division and 173rd Airborne Brigade are all
serving in Iraq, as are elements of the Army's V Corps, according to
Nine**** of the Army's 33 brigades are deployed abroad.
Only one division, the 1st Cavalry, is being held in reserve.
Rep. John M. Spratt Jr. (S.C.), the ranking Democrat on the House
Budget Committee and a member of the Armed Services Committee, said
the war will likely lead to delays in new weapons purchases and some
Loren B. Thompson, a defense ****yst at the conservative Lexington
Institute, said elements of Rumsfeld's "transformation" of the
military into a smaller, quicker force will undoubtedly have to be put
"The big budgetary question is not what it's costing us today,"
"It's the costs of reservists not reenlisting. It's the cost of
active-duty [troops] giving up on a career that proved just too
difficult to sustain, and the costs of equipment that is not being
maintained at any level that can be considered adequate."
Pentagon officials are not nearly so pessimistic.
Although Zakheim refused to venture how many troops would be in Iraq
in a year, Defense Department do***ents sent to Congress last week
indicate the Pentagon "assumes that only a limited number of U.S.
forces will remain" there by September 2004.
However, Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the retired commander of U.S. forces in
Iraq, told lawmakers last week that troops could be in Iraq as long as
four years from now.
Zakheim strongly dismissed concerns over morale, troop retention and
"The people on the ground really seem to want to stay there," said
Zakheim, who recently returned from Baghdad.
"Even the people I visited in hospital, their number one objective is
to get back into theater. People sign up to do just what they're
Such comments have fueled Democratic criticism that the administration
is not facing up to the facts in Iraq, nor is it addressing the hard
choices they present.
"It's been hide the ball every step of the way," said Sen. Kent Conrad
(N.D.), ranking Democrat on the Budget Committee.
"They've consistently understated the cost by a factor of
several-fold, and they've done everything they can not to share
"Fifty billion dollars to a $400 billion deficit -- that's a
significant addition that should have some bearing on tax cuts and
other spending decisions."
Two antiwar activists, Elias Vlanton of Takoma Park, and Niko Matsakis
of Boston, are keeping a running tally of the war costs on their
Among the site's assertions: the $67 billion spent this year on the
war and Iraqi reconstruction could have put 9.5 million more children
in Head Start, financed the hiring of 1.3 million schoolteachers, or
covered the health insurance costs of 29 million children.
Next year's costs are more difficult to discern. Although the
administration has "a pretty good sense of what's going to be on the
ground" Sept. 30, Zakheim said, it will not request funding now for
Iraqi operations in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
The defense spending bills for fiscal 2004 pending in Congress do not
provide money for the occupation.
"We at least need to have some good estimates," Spratt said.
"This is a big footnote to the budget. The budget does not adequately
reflect all the costs that we know are going to be incurred in the
coming fiscal year."
Even Republican aides on Capitol Hill complain that the Defense
Department has been far too reluctant to own up to the budgetary costs
of the war.
Zakheim defended the administration's budget policymaking as "open"
and "above board," saying that ongoing military operations have
traditionally been funded through emergency budget requests, not the
base Pentagon budget.
"It is far more responsible to the taxpayer for us to get a better fix
on what the costs are going be, then come in" with a request, he said.
"Maybe in two months' time, things will be so different that
everything we're talking about now will be seriously OBE'd" --
overtaken by events.
It's only money, right? What else would we do with it?
"A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon it's real money."
Senator Everett Dirksen