Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Report: Bush masked cost of wars that could top $1.7 trillion

Report: Bush masked cost of wars that could top $1.7 trillion

Nick Juliano

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Even if Barack Obama draws down troops in Iraq like he's promised, a new report finds the US is on pace to have spent nearly $2 trillion on military operations including Iraq and Afghanistan over the next decade.

The nonpartisan Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments found that the $687 billion spent so far on Iraq has cost the US more than every conflict aside from World War II. With the $184 billion in Afghanistan, the two main conflicts of the war on terror have proved to be 50 percent more expensive than Vietnam.

An author of the report said President Bush's decision to circumvent the traditional budget process is to blame for the exceedingly high costs.

The reliance on supplemental funding creates a misleading picture of overall requirements, said Steven Kosiak, vice president of budget studies at CSBA and author of the report, during a briefing on Monday. "A sound budgeting process forces policymakers to recognize the true costs of their policy choices," he said.
The CSBA's assessment comes in below some of the highest estimates for the wars' costs. Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard economist Laura Bilmes estimated Iraq alone would cost $3 trillion when factoring costs beyond the battlefield, such as veterans health benefits and disability pay.

Reuters detailed the CSBA report on Tuesday.

The latest report blamed President Bush for keeping the costs so high through his practice of funding the wars via "emergency" supplemental budget requests, which fall outside the bounds of the normal budgetary process. Such requests, CSBA found, virtually eliminate Congressional oversight and hurt the Pentagon's ability to plan for the long term.

That Bush insisted on delivering massive tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans during wartime also drove up the long-term price tag, according to the report.

Wartime costs are expected to balloon by an additional $416 billion to $817 billion by 2018, according to the report, even if troop deployments fall below 75,000. Currently, 143,000 US troops are deployed to Iraq and another 31,000 are in Afghanistan.

President-elect Obama has promised to begin withdrawing combat troops from Iraq, but he plans to increase deployments to Afghanistan. An agreement with the Iraqi government signed recently would see all US troops gone from that country by 2011.

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