Black and White Program

What Iraq, Afghanistan, and the War on Terror Has Cost

September 19th, 2008 by Kyle Rankin

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The U.S. Congress system for funding operates with an appropriations-funding method. In this system, first a budget or request for funding is submitted, and then, if appropriations are approved, the requisition is funded. A point of measure since September of 2001 reveals that the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the general war on terrorism has been quite costly— approximately $858 billion has been appropriated, and actually $771 billion funded. This amount includes military, diplomatic, veterans benefits, and some services for these specific regions. On average, Congress has provided funding of $93 billion per year from 2003 until 2005. In 2006, the numbers shot up to $121 billion, again being toppled in 2007 with $171 billion. 2008 delivered yet another increase to 186 billion. Projections for the first quarter of 2009 are currently at $68 billion.
Funding for Military Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and for Other Activities Related to the War on Terrorism, 2008 and 2009

The Department of Defense (DoD) has been the primary directive of the funding with a total of $810 billion appropriated since September 2001 for defense operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for the war on terrorism. As part of the use of such funding, the DoD spent $38 billion on equipping and training security forces Iraq and Afghanistan. Iraq Relief and Reconstruction has totaled $16 billion in appropriations, and $46 billion has been provided for diplomatic operations and foreign aid to Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries that are assisting the United States in the war on terrorism.

$11 Billion Per month

The DoD reports that in 2008, obligations for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and for other activities related to the war on terrorism have averaged about $11 billion per month. The reports are current up to June of 2008, the last month of information available for the 2008 fiscal year. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) expects that monthly obligations will increase during the last quarter of this fiscal year.
Funding for Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and for Other Activities

The Three Directives

The funding for project Operation Iraqi Freedom accounts for approximately 82 percent of all reported obligations in 2008— down from 85 percent in 2007 due to an accounting period adjustment.

The U.S. contribution to the war in Afghanistan, Operation Enduring Freedom, accounts for another 18 percent.

Combat air patrols over Washington, D.C., and New York City and general security measures associated with protecting stateside citizens and officials, known as Operation Noble account for less than 1 percent.

An Educated Guess

The Congressional Budget Office– Budget and Economic Outlook Update indicates that reporting on specifics of spending of the DoD is difficult because most appropriations for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and for other activities related to the war on terrorism appear in the same budget accounts that record appropriations as DoD’s other functions as well.
However, an educated guess would be that outlays for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan amounted to approximately $120 billion last year. And in 2008 operations will total about $145 billion, in CBO’s estimation.


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