Hit & Run

Wars: Surprisingly Unaffordable

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The freshly renamed Government Accountability Office (GAO) says the costs of our military adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq are getting out of hand. From the Washington Post, via MSNBC.

The U.S. military has spent most of the $65 billion that Congress approved for fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and is scrambling to find $12.3 billion more from within the Defense Department to finance the wars through the end of the fiscal year….

Already, the GAO said, the services have deferred the repair of equipment used in Iraq, grounded some Air Force and Navy pilots, canceled training exercises, and delayed facility-restoration projects. The Air Force is straining to cover the cost of body armor for airmen in combat areas, night-vision gear and surveillance equipment, according to the report.

The Army, which is overspending its budget by $10.2 billion for operations and maintenance, is asking the Marines and the Air Force to help cover the escalating costs of its logistics contract with Halliburton Co. But the Air Force is also exceeding its budget by $1.4 billion, while the Marines are coming up $500 million short. The Army is even having trouble paying the contractors guarding its garrisons outside the war zones, the report said.
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The GAO report detailed just why a $65 billion emergency appropriation has proved to be insufficient. When Bush requested that money, the Pentagon assumed that troop levels in Iraq would decline from 130,000 to 99,000 by Sept. 30, that a more peaceful Iraq would allow the use of more cost-effective but slower sea lifts to transport troops and equipment, and that troops rotating in would need fewer armored vehicles than the service members they replace.

Instead, troop levels will remain at 138,000 for the foreseeable future, the military is heavily dependent on costly airlifts and the Army's force has actually become more dependent on heavily armored vehicles. The weight of those vehicles, in turn, has contributed to higher-than-anticipated repair and maintenance costs. Higher troop levels have also pushed up the cost of the Pentagon's massive logistical contract with Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root.

More expensive details in the full story. The GAO report is here.