Tracking the Cost of War

Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, National Priorities Project has tracked the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Recent events including the end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq and the winding down of the troop “surge” in Afghanistan have led to the question – what’s going to happen to funding for U.S. operations in these countries?

The answer is in three parts:
•    Annual funding will be lower than in the past,
•    The wars will continue to draw on taxpayer resources even after combat operations in both countries have ended, and
•    The funding stream will increasingly flow through federal agencies other than the Department of Defense

To date Congress has allocated a total of $1.38 trillion to the wars: $807 billion to Iraq and $571 billion to Afghanistan.

Already we have seen a gradual reduction in annual war funding. According to the Pentagon, Defense Department funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is $115 billion in the current fiscal year, down from $159 billion in fiscal year 2011. Their projection for FY2013 is $88 billion (Note: these numbers are not adjusted for inflation).

Looking forward, the Pentagon has included in recent budget materials a “placeholder” figure of $44 billion for war funding in fiscal year 2017 – five years from now.

Meanwhile, the government plans to increase funding in other federal accounts to support the ongoing U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the State Department’s budget request for fiscal year 2012, "by the beginning of FY 2012, much of the work previously done by our military in Iraq will have become the responsibility of State and [the U.S. Agency for International Development and] a similar shift will take place in Afghanistan."

NPP will continue to analyze funding for Iraq and Afghanistan – and the counters will keep rolling – for as long as U.S. taxpayers are asked to support the direct and indirect costs of these wars.