How Much Will Escalation Cost?

ghost-escalatorThe L.A. Times has a fascinating article about the difficulties in accounting for estimated costs in a troop surge in Afghanistan.

The calculations so far have produced a sweeping range. The Pentagon publicly estimates it will cost $500,000 a year for every additional service member sent to the war zone. Obama’s budget experts size it up at twice that much.

[…]

The Office of Management and Budget says adding 40,000 troops would cost about $40 billion a year, or $1 million each. White House officials included in their estimate everything they consider necessary to wage war, including troop housing and equipment.

[…]

The Pentagon arrived at its much lower estimate by dividing its war funding request by the number of troops throughout the region: 68,000 in Afghanistan and up to 95,000 in supporting roles elsewhere, such as on nearby ships or in surrounding countries.

The Pentagon cost includes higher combat wages, extra aircraft hours and other operations and maintenance costs, but omits such items as new weapons purchases — one-time costs that vary by year — and support equipment like spy satellites and anti-roadside-bomb technology.

The Pentagon also does not try to estimate costs of new bases for additional soldiers.

But in a memo early this month, obtained by The Times’ Washington bureau, the Pentagon’s own comptroller produced an estimate that broke with the customary Defense formula and did include construction and equipment.

That memo said the yearly cost of a 40,000-troop increase would be $30 billion to $35 billion — at least $750,000 a person. An increase of 20,000 would cost $20 billion to $25 billion annually, it said — a per-soldier cost equal to or greater than the White House estimate.

Keep in mind that these are per year figures, and most discussiosn of troop escalations involve deployments for longer than that–possibly much longer.

As for which figures to go with, I have to say that I’m going to be inclined to go with the OMB on this. Indeed, I’d be perfectly willing to bet that the OMB is underestimating the costs, and the Pentagon almost definitely is. The appropriations required for combat have, in my experience, often exceeded the initial estimates. After all, who can forget this famous estimate?

Q: Mr. Secretary, on Iraq, how much money do you think the Department of Defense would need to pay for a war with Iraq?

Rumsfeld: Well, the Office of Management and Budget, has come up come up with a number that’s something under $50 billion for the cost. How much of that would be the U.S. burden, and how much would be other countries, is an open question. I think the way to put it into perspective is that the estimates as to what September 11th cost the United States of America ranges high up into the hundreds of billions of dollars. Now, another event in the United States that was like September 11th, and which cost thousands of lives, but one that involved a — for example, a biological weapon, would be — have a cost in human life, as well as in billions, hundreds of billions of dollars, that would be vastly greater.

As a refresher:

The cost of the Iraq War to date: over $700 billion.

The number of biological weapons that were found in Iraq: zero.

Link via Spencer Ackerman.   Photo by Flickr user basheem under Creative Commons license.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War, Military Affairs, National Security, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.

Comments

  1. Ugh says:

    And those ungrateful Afghans just don’t seem to appreciate how much our bombs of peace and freedom cost. Wankers.

  2. As a refresher:

    The cost of the Iraq War to date: over $700 billion.

    The number of biological weapons that were found in Iraq: zero.

    Alex, why is it so hard to imagine that the second isn’t a direct consequence of the first? And at some point you really need to broaden your critique beyond “they lied about the WMD.” Avoiding even Bill Clinton’s, Al Gore’s, the EU’s and the IAEA’s belief that he did in fact have WMD capabilities, Saddam’s numerous and repeated UN resolution violations, and the expectations that he wasn’t up to trying a lot more mischief just gets tiresome after a while. Not to mention that the whole world, including Iraq, is a lot better off without him or his sons around anymore.

    Too bad we can’t get any of the otehr beneficiaries of Saddam’s demise to pony up and help defray some of the expenses. Oh well.

  3. Steve Plunk says:

    20/20 hindsight on the cost of the Iraq war and the WMDs. Best estimates were made and evidence supported the existence of WMDs. It’s tiresome to keep hearing this.

  4. Alex Knapp says:

    Charles,

    Alex, why is it so hard to imagine that the second isn’t a direct consequence of the first?

    Because I live in the real world, where there is no evidence that that’s the case.

    Avoiding even Bill Clinton’s, Al Gore’s, the EU’s and the IAEA’s belief that he did in fact have WMD capabilities

    But he didn’t.

    Saddam’s numerous and repeated UN resolution violations

    Which turned out to be denying inspections of facilities that were not, in fact, producing any dangerous weapons.

    expectations that he wasn’t up to trying a lot more mischief just gets tiresome after a while

    But he wasn’t.

    Not to mention that the whole world, including Iraq, is a lot better off without him or his sons around anymore.

    But is the world better off without the 4,683 Coalition soldiers and 46,526 Iraqi civilians who are dead as a direct consequence of the war?

    Steve,

    20/20 hindsight on the cost of the Iraq war and the WMDs. Best estimates were made and evidence supported the existence of WMDs. It’s tiresome to keep hearing this.

    You’re right. God forbid there be any accountability for the decisions that led to the deaths of over 4,000 American soldiers and the loss of hundreds of billions of dollars. Just a “whoops, our bad” is sufficient, right?

  5. anjin-san says:

    evidence supported the existence of WMDs.

    Are you enjoying those freshly picked cherries?

    Guess this is the new line from the right. The Iraq war was the right thing to do at the time. Sort of like “we would have won in Vietnam if the liberals had let us”.

  6. anjin-san says:

    46,526 Iraqi civilians

    No, no, no! Let’s talk about something really horrible, like Obama’s bow…

  7. floyd says:

    $1,000,000 per year per soldier???
    Does that mean Obamacare doctor’s will be $10,000,000??

  8. Franklin says:

    Awwww, poor charles and Steve, so tired of hearing of their own failures. Boo hoo!

    What threat did Iraq pose to the United States, even with WMD? None. What did they do to provoke an attack? Nothing. In fact, they put up with the inspections for quite a long time. Or would you be okay with foreign powers rummaging through your stuff? Seems they were actually rather accommodating on this front.

    Yeah, Saddam and his boys were bad. Really, really bad. Should we get ready of every bad guy on Earth? Get back to me when you’ve accomplished that, I’d rather spend money on something useful, perhaps health care.

  9. Franklin says:

    And at some point you really need to broaden your critique beyond “they lied about the WMD.”

    Okay, how about “they lied about Saddam’s association with Al Qaeda”?

  10. anjin-san says:

    Get back to me when you’ve accomplished that

    Let’s upgrade that to “Get back to me when you are ready to go into battle to accomplish that”. You personally. It’s a little different when it is you getting your ass shot off.

  11. steve says:

    These cost estimates also assume we can keep the supply lines open through Pakistan. If we have to fly in everything or take the northern route, costs go way up. The cost of a gallon of gas there now run anywhere from $50 to $300 a gallon depending on which DoD estimate you use and we use about 23 gallons per soldier per day. The recent proposal that we specifically fund the war was intriguing. No chance it will pass, but it would highlight the costs of mismanagement.

    I think best evidence suggests that Wolfowitz et. al. had ben wanting to invade Iraq all along. 9/11 was their excuse. At this point it is difficult to tell what they really believed and what was manufactured. They certainly ignored a lot of evidence that did not support the presence of WMDs. Has to go down as one of the worst, if not the worst, interpretation of intelligence in our history and it appears to have ben significantly politically tainted.

    Steve

  12. Serious BS Alex, but you’re hindsight is near 20/20. Congratulations. Meanwhile, I suppose the Kurds in Halbja made it all up then.

    No point in responding further to you, Franklin or Anjin-san. I’ll just put all of you in the Saddam Hussein apologist camp. Enjoy yourselves.

  13. Alex Knapp says:

    Serious BS Alex, but you’re hindsight is near 20/20.

    So it doesn’t bother you at all that our intelligence got everything about Iraq’s capabilities completely wrong and as a consequence thousands of people died who otherwise would not have?

    Meanwhile, I suppose the Kurds in Halbja made it all up then.

    When did I utter anything remotely like this? Hajiba was in the early 80s. We invaded Iraq in 2003. There is no evidence that Iraq possessed any chemical or biological capability in 2003. Period. End of story.

    I’ll just put all of you in the Saddam Hussein apologist camp.

    So it’s your contention that the United States should invade and depose every dictatorship in the world, regardless of whether they pose any threat to the United States? Since Iraq posed no threat to the United States, I can’t think of any other principle that justifies an invasion.

  14. Davebo says:

    I’ll just put all of you in the Saddam Hussein apologist camp. Enjoy yourselves.

    Incurious and lazy. Sterling qualities there.

  15. anjin-san says:

    Anjin-san. I’ll just put all of you in the Saddam Hussein apologist camp.

    Please show me one thing I have ever said in defense of Saddam Hussein. Since you can’t I’ll just put you in the idiot camp.

  16. Alex, ((deleted out of respect for OTB)).

    Time to take a break.

  17. anjin-san says:

    Please show me one thing I have ever said in defense of Saddam Hussein.

    Come on Charles. Show me, or man up and apologize.

  18. Bill H says:

    Do any of the cost estimates include lifetime medical care for the wounded? Or penisons for the families of those killed? Or lifetime disability payments for PTSD and TBI victims?

    I didn’t think so.