March 2013 marked the tenth anniversary of the American-led war on terror. This war has had a catastrophic effect on the economy in the past decade both within the United States and indeed globally. It is estimated that taxpayers in the United States are paying $11.26 million every hour for the cost of war in Afghanistan since 2001 and the cost of war in Iraq since 2003. In a study carried out in 2013, experts estimated that the total cost could amount to $4 trillion over the next four decades. Discussion about these wars often sees the economic costs of the conflict side-lined, understandable when a reported 190,000 people have been killed in the conflict, 70% of whom were civilians.
The budget put forth by the Department of Defense in April of 2013 for the fiscal year 2014 requested $526.6 billion “to protect and advance security interests at home and abroad.” With vast sums of money being pumped into this ongoing war in the last decade alone – which Professor Neta C. Crawford has estimated to be nearing the $4 trillion mark, despite senior White House official, Lawrence Lindsey’s initial estimate of the war to amount to $200 billion – the question as to what exactly the taxpayer’s money is being spent on looms large.
What is perhaps more cause for concern is the knowledge that this war will generate expenses for decades to come, including the continued rising cost of medical and disability cover for veterans. With the federal government still issuing payments to relatives of Civil War veterans almost 150 years after that war – estimated to be about $876 per year – a worrying picture begins to emerge. Additionally, both wars are being fought with borrowed money, adding an estimated $2 trillion to America’s debt to date, which will continue to cause fiscal problems for the U.S. in the future. 2014 marks the projected end of Afghan combat operations yet the costs continue to mount.
10 Deployment Of Troops: $1.2 Million
There are numerous expenses involved in the deployment of troops to both Afghanistan and Iraq, many of which are incurred before a troop leaves home soil. He or she needs to be fed, clothed and trained, and that’s before a pay check is brought into the equation. Once troops are deployed, a base to house for that soldier needs to be built, the soldier needs to be armed and transportation needs to be provided, difficult in the face of the ever rising cost of fuel. It is estimated to cost about $1.2 million per year to support one U.S. troop deployed in Afghanistan, while it was estimated to be about $685,000 to support a troop in Iraq.
9 Weaponry: $22 Billion
It has been widely reported that the Department of Homeland Security wishes to purchase 1.6 billion rounds of ammunition over the next four to five years. Peggy Dixon, spokesperson for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centre in Glynco, GA, has confirmed that much of this ammunition is designated for training centres within the U.S. – up to 15 million rounds per year – but at what cost to the taxpayer? It is estimated to be over $22 billion. In the fiscal year 2014, it is estimated that every hour, taxpayers in the U.S. are paying $964,006 for a F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, $36,563 for a Tomahawk Cruise Missile, and $2.2 million for Nuclear Weapons.
8 War Veterans: $40 Billion
An average of $40 billion annually is being paid to veterans and survivors of wars. Payments to veterans of the Vietnam War are almost double the cost of the current wars, estimated to be $22 billion and $12 billion, respectively. The economic aftermath of the Korean War costs taxpayers an average, $2.8 billion annually. $20 million is being paid annually to 2,289 family members of veterans from World War I, while World War II costs the federal government about $5 billion annually. The U.S. War in Iraq could see benefits owed to veterans’ amount to over $6 trillion over the next four decades.
7 Wasted Funds: $60 Billion
Huge costs are incurred maintaining military bases in Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain in order to protect Iraq, or indeed reoccupy the country should its government collapse. Money intended for other use has been poured into military and police training. The $60 billion allocated for reconstruction within Iraq has not gone to rebuilding the country’s infrastructure such as roads, water treatment systems and social and healthcare systems. “The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction has found massive fraud, waste, and abuse of reconstruction funds.”
6 DOD & U.S. AID: $104 Billion
Over the past twelve years, the Department of Defense (DOD) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have appropriated funds for international assistance to Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. To date, over $104 billion has been spent on reconstruction and development aid in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. Intended for disaster relief and the enhancement of lives in war-torn areas, 93% of the $4 billion allocated in the 2012 fiscal year went toward security rather than reconstruction programming. Such disproportionate figures, coupled with the unaccountability of some of these funds due to waste and fraudulent activity, generate many questions.
5 Private Security Contractors: $160 Billion
Over 108,000 private contractors are currently in Afghanistan, totting up a staggering $160 billion tab. Their growing presence indicates that even though 2014 will continue to see the number of troops stationed in Afghanistan decrease, a private army will remain in the country for years to come. In 2013, Schwartz and Church of the CRS reported that “DOD obligations for contracts performed in the Iraq and Afghanistan areas of operation were approximately $160 billion and exceeded total contract obligations of any other U.S. federal agency.”
4 Homeland Security: $649 Billion
After 9/11, a new cabinet-level Homeland Security agency was established. This saw an increase of $3.6 billion to the already established budget of $17.1 billion. Altogether, there has been an increase of $455 billion spent on Homeland Security in the wake of 9/11 with a total spending from 2001-2011 amounting to about $649 billion. In the fiscal year 2014, it has been estimated that every hour, taxpayers in the United States are paying $6.82 million for Homeland Security since 9/11.
3 Medical Care: $1 Trillion
Previous wars point to the rising costs of caring for war veterans’ decades after the war has finished, usually spiking thirty to forty years after the war. A 2013 study found U.S. medical and disability claims for veterans amounted to almost $135 billion in the past decade. Current patterns of benefit claims and medical usage in the U.S. indicate that “the total present value of such costs for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans over the next 40 years is in the range of $600 billion to $1 trillion.”
2 Pentagon Budget: $1.4 Trillion
The Pentagon and Congress’ accounting for appropriations since 9/11 have been inadequate and sloppy. Failure to document expenditure appropriately has resulted in uncertainty around the Department of Defense’s actual cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Notably, Pentagon appropriations include Department of Defense costs for numerous war-related campaigns in countries such as Yemen, the Philippines, Djibouti and other places. In the fiscal year 2013, the Pentagon total for Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan was just over $1.4 trillion. The $5.24 trillion “appropriated for ostensibly non-war DOD expenses up to the end of 2011 is inextricably linked to the “off the books” approach of the Pentagon and Congress.
1 Interest Payments: $7 Trillion
The respective wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been funded almost entirely by borrowed money. Consequently, this “has raised the U.S. budget deficit, increased the national debt, and had other macroeconomic effects, such as raising interest rates.” The interest on the money borrowed to fund the Afghanistan and Iraq wars could amount to $4 trillion over the next four decades, according to a report published by the Watson Institute at Brown University in 2013. A conservative estimate considering their statement “that interest payments could total about $1 trillion dollars by 2023, or $7 trillion by 2053.” These figures have been backed by similar studies carried out at Columbia and Harvard universities.