WASHINGTON – The United States has been at war non-stop for 17 years and now there is a price tag of the costs of those efforts: between $2,002.4 billion to $2,106.2 billion.
The estimate was reached by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a non-partisan think tank, based only on reported costs. When you add in the “wide range of outside estimates that include other major costs,” as CSIS did, the cost balloons to $5.9 trillion spent and obligated over the same period, it said.
“the Department of Defense and other Departments and agencies have never provided credible estimates of futures pending, but the same outside estimate of war costs projects a total of $6,741 billion through end-FY2023,” CSIS said in its report, called “America’s Military Spending and the Uncertain Costs of its Wars: The Need for Transparent Reporting.”
The report was released Saturday afternoon.
“These new data provide substantial further evidence that the U.S. government is failing to meet its responsibility to report meaningfully on America’s wars,” CSIS said. It said the way the Pentagon costs wars is “a morass of contradictory, uncertain, and dysfunctional figures.”
Among the “building blocks” that add to the cost of war are expenses by entities such the State Department, USAID, Veterans administration and the CIA that “either have serious gaps and problems or are not addressed in an official form,” CSIS said.
“If anything, the United States has steadily cut back on the level of transparency it provides on its military and civil activity and has not developed any meaningful reporting on how the total cost of its wars are tied to well-defined military and civil efforts, their effectiveness, and some clear strategy to terminate and ‘win’ America’s current conflicts,” CSIS said.
The Pentagon budget requests continually do not match its real spending in recent years, and its out-year estimates for the four future years in its annual Future Year Defense Programs (FYDPs) have strewn empty nominal “placeholders” requests for money with no substantive meaning, the report said.
“There are no official reports or studies outside of the Departments of Defense and State that link the level of spending on a given war to a clear strategy or estimate of such spending to the strategy employed, the force levels and military operations taking place, and the cost-effectiveness of U.S. spending,” CSIS said.
CSIS said the only areas that draw near meaningful reporting and transparency by war major level of activity, are the reports of the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) and the Lead Inspector General for Overseas Contingency Operations. However, both of those entities are finding their access to unclassified material and information diminishing.
It said Congress should mull revamping now war costs are calculated and consider including such areas the full medical costs of those wounded and injured in the wars, pension costs, all homeland defense spending, and the impact of wartime spending on the national debt.