Overseas wars have cost US $4.3 trillion since 2001: report
Fighting overseas has cost the United States more than $4.3 trillion since 2001, a figure likely to jump to $5.6 trillion by the end of fiscal 2018, according to new numbers from the Costs of War report released Tuesday.
“As of late September 2017, the United States wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria and the additional spending on Homeland Security, and the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs since the 9/11 attacks totaled more than $4.3 trillion in current dollars,” the report states.
The analysis, which is published annually by Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, found that about $1.9 trillion of that money came from the emergency war fund known as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) program. Additionally, $879 billion came from the Defense Department’s base spending, $783 billion came from Department of Homeland Security prevention and terrorism response costs and $277 billion came from Veterans Affairs spending.
Another $534 billion in OCO borrowing interest costs rounds out the $4.3 trillion.
Study author Neta Crawford notes that combat operations since 2001 “have been largely paid for by borrowing, part of the reason the U.S. went from budget surplus to deficits after 2001.”
Future interest costs for OCO spending alone are projected to add more than $1 trillion dollars to the national debt by 2023 and $8 trillion by 2056, “unless the U.S. changes the way that it pays for the wars,” Crawford writes.
That worries Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Jack Reed (D-R.I.), who told reporters Tuesday “we have to recognize that we have been borrowing for 16 years to pay for military operations.”
“[It’s the] first time, really, in history in any type of major conflict that we have borrowed rather than asked people to contribute to the national defense directly and the result is we’ve got this huge fiscal drag,” Reed said.
In the midst of a major Republican push for tax reform, Reed said there’s been no talk of raising taxes to pay for the defense-related deficit.
Crawford adds that the costs of overseas conflicts will increase with President Trump’s recent decision to boost U.S. end strength in Afghanistan.
Trump in August announced he will beef up U.S. forces in Afghanistan from the current number of 11,000. An additional 3,000 troops have already begun heading to the country.
“There is no end in sight to the US military presence in Afghanistan and the associated operations in Pakistan,” Crawford writes.
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