Published On: Sun, Nov 18th, 2018

War on Terror: Nearly $6 trillion spent and obligated

The amount of spending for all actions in the War on Terror post-9/11 continues to grow, according to the people who closely monitor both spending and human costs at Brown University.

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The United States has appropriated and is obligated to spend an estimated $5.9 trillion (in current dollars) on the war on terror through Fiscal Year 2019, including direct war and war-related spending and obligations for future spending on post 9/11 war veterans.

This spending includes Pentagon spending (in the war zones of Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and in other places the government designates as sites of  “overseas contingency operations”) plus war-related spending by the Department of State, past and obligated spending for war veterans’ care, interest on the debt incurred to pay for the wars, and the prevention of and response to terrorism by the Department of Homeland Security.

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If the US continues on its current path, war spending will continue to grow. The Pentagon currently projects $80 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) spending through FY2023.

Even if the wars are ended by 2023, the US would still be on track to spend an additional $808 billion to total at least $6.7 trillion, not including future interest costs. Moreover, the costs of war will likely be greater than this because, unless the US immediately ends its deployments, the number of veterans
associated with the post-9/11 wars will also grow.

Veterans benefits and disability spending, and the cost of interest on borrowing to pay for the wars, will comprise an increasingly large share of the costs of the US post-9/11 wars.

War appropriations for Iraq and Afghanistan were not funded with new taxes or war bonds, but by deficit spending and borrowing. This adds interest costs to war spending, specifically, the interest costs already paid and future interest costs.

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And the future looks bleak. There is no  strategy to end the wars other than more of the same, in the hope that one day Iraqi and Afghan security forces will be able to fend for themselves.

In addition, the US has escalated its involvement with wars and counter terror operations in Africa and Yemen.

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Nor is there a strategy for responsibly paying for these wars.

The authors state: In sum, high costs in war and war-related spending pose a national security concern
because they are unsustainable. The public would be better served by increased transparency and by the development of a comprehensive strategy to end the wars and deal with other urgent national security priorities.

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