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Cost Of Putting Each Fighter In War Zone At Record High Print

Houston Chronicle April 29, 2006

Figure neared $400,000 per service member in '05, study says

By Michael Hedges, Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - The cost of putting each U.S. ilitary service member in the Iraq war zone approached a record-high $400,000 by the end of 2005 and is continuing to rise sharply, according to a government study.

The figure, which did not include basic pay, eans the Iraq war is costing more per fighterthan any other U.S. war, according to experts.

The report also demonstrates the material expense f fighting a high-tech war with relatively lean forces.

There have been some small military operations hat may have been more expensive, but no war onthis scale has cost this much," University of hicago economist Steven Davis said. "We have anextremely capital intensive, high-tech military, and using it is expensive."
Putting it into perspective

A top Army official argued that the costs of Iraq nd Afghanistan, now about $435 billion, need tobe measured against the overall size of the U.S. conomy ­ and what Americans routinely spend on other things.

Here is what is amazing to me," Gen. PeterSchoomaker, Army chief of staff, told reporters
this week. "What do you think we spent on plastic anta Clauses and tinsel and all this stuff forChristmas last year? The answer is $435.3 illion, roughly equivalent to the defense budget."

The figure for Christmas decorations came from he National Retail Association and actually wasan estimate of seasonal spending on Thanksgiving and all winter holidays.

By the end of 2005, according to this week's eport by the Congressional Research Service, itwas costing an average of $361,000 to put a oldier, Marine, airman or sailor in Iraq or atbases and on ships in the region. Costs have isen almost 20 percent in 2006, making it likelythe expense per service member has topped $400,000.

In Afghanistan, the cost per U.S. military ervice member at the end of 2005 was $275,000.
Cost compared to GDP

The calculations disregarded costs in the entagon's annual budget like medical benefitsand include weapons and transportation as well as xpenses such as KBR Halliburton's contract tosupport soldiers, said study author Amy Belasco.

World War II, in which the United States deployed 5 times as many troops as in Iraq, cost thenation about $20,400 per soldier, adjusted for nflation, according to researchers.

The costs of Iraq and Afghanistan are not as higha percentage of the overall economy as past wars.
As a percentage of gross domestic product, the ietnam War cost twice as much as today's wars,and the Korean War was four times as expensive.

Regardless, there is growing disquiet in Congressand among independent analysts over the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We have long ago exceeded the Pentagon estimates or how much the war would cost. Now we areexceeding the most dire worst-case scenarios," aid Rep. John Spratt of South Carolina, ranking Democrat on the Armed Services budget subcommittee.

But Congress is unlikely to seriously challenge he Bush administration's requests for war funding, he said.

"When you've got troops in the field on a ifficult, dangerous mission, you want to beunstinting in your support," he said. "People (in congress) could start to challenge the costs, but it hasn't happened yet."

An example of why was seen this week. OnWednesday, when Republican senators voted to
shift $1.9 billion to border security from war costs, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.,swiftly accused the GOP of voting to "take money from troop pay, body armor and even the'improvised explosive device defeat' fund."

Showing how the Pentagon has deployed expensive, relatively new hardware in Iraq and Afghanistan,the military's most recent supplemental budget request includes $300 million for tacticalbattlefield computers, used in vehicles to help Americans navigate, communicate and trackfriendly forces; $300 million for the unmanned aerial drones used for airstrikes andsurveillance; and $100 million for the new Stryker light armored vehicles that are a major upgrade from the Humvee.
The study for Congress attempted to fix a grand total for all expenditures in Iraq, Afghanistanand for domestic military expenses involved in securing the U.S. since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Total cost of securing U.S.

The figure came to between $432 billion and $439 billion, about a sixth of the total costs,adjusted for inflation, of World War II, which took a similar length of time. The price tag forthe current war is approaching the total cost of the Vietnam War ­ an inflation-adjusted $494 billion.

The costs of the war in Iraq alone were put at $320 billion, including a $65 billionsupplemental budget request being debated in the Senate. The overall Afghanistan costs were put at $89 billion.

 
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