The Eight Outrageous Costs Of The War On Terror

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1. Congressional War Appropriations to Pentagon
> Conservative estimate: $1.31 trillion
> Moderate estimate: $1.31 trillion
> Major costs: Military Equipment, Operation & Maintenance, Military Personnel

Due to a number of transparency and accountability issues within the Department of Defense, it is impossible to tell how much money has actually been spent on the post-9/11 wars, which include Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the Congressional Research Service, however, $1.31 trillion has been appropriated to the DOD between 2001 and 2011 to fight the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. The greatest amount of this money is used on military operations and maintenance, which, according to a CRS definition, includes “funds to transport troops and their equipment to Iraq and Afghanistan, conduct military operations, provide in-country support at bases, and repairing war-worn equipment.” The second largest portion is spent on procurement of military equipment, including vehicles and weapons.

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2. Additions to the Pentagon Base Budget
> Conservative estimate: $326.2 billion
> Moderate estimate: $652.4 billion
> Major costs: Research and development of weapons systems, maintenance of army

In peace time, the Pentagon is given an annual amount to cover its costs, known as the base budget. During times of war, additions are made to the Pentagon’s base budget. Of the $5.2 trillion given to the Pentagon as a base budget between 2001 and 2011, $652.4 billion was appropriated as a consequence of the war — a number calculated by following the patterns in DOD budget growth before the 9/11 attacks. According to Winslow Wheeler, Director of the Straus Military Reform Project of the Center for Defense Information, the amount appropriated by the DOD for non-war purposes, is the result of a political, “support the troops” mentality which caused the defense budget to become off limits in congress.

3. Interest on Pentagon War Appropriations
> Conservative estimate: $185.4 billion
> Moderate estimate: $185.4 billion
> Major costs: Higher interest rates, higher national debt

Current war spending is primarily funded by borrowing money. As a result, the wars increase the nation’s indebtedness. The amount of debt held by the public has almost doubled since 2007, reaching approximately 70 percent of GDP. According to Ryan Edwards, a faculty research fellow with the National Bureau of Economic Research, war spending “may be responsible for … between one quarter and one third of the increase.” In a recent statement Edwards explains that “on a per-person basis, the additional debt associated with war spending to date, which each living American owes to creditors, is about $4,000.” Deficit-funded war spending has had even more tangible effects on people’s wallets. In 2010, the average homeowner paid an extra $600 in mortgage payments due to rising interest rates, according to calculations by Edwards, an amount included in the estimate.

4. Veterans’ Medical and Disability
> Conservative estimate: $32.6 billion
> Moderate estimate: $32.6 billion
> Major costs: Traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder

Veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are applying for disability benefits at much higher rates than veterans from previous wars. A staggering 650,000 U.S. veterans have been treated in the Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities for injuries either sustained or made worse while serving in these countries — about 51% of all GWOT (Global War on Terror) veterans. Approximately 20% of discharged troops who have fought in these wars are estimated to be affected by traumatic brain injury. 177,149 veterans have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. This is the most common mental health condition among GWOT soldiers, according to Linda Bilmes, Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. Bilmes also notes that those who are diagnosed with PTSD are often co-diagnosed with other ailments. The U.S. has already spent $32.6 billion providing medical treatment and benefits to discharged soldiers. However it should be noted that even more money has been spent than the reported amount, as this amount does not include medical care for soldiers who are currently serving.