How Much Will Escalation Cost?
The Los Angeles Times earns your readership this morning by running a great piece digging into differing cost estimates between the White House and the Pentagon over how much a troop increase in Afghanistan will cost. The White House says it wants a thorough accounting; the Pentagon appears to be worried that such a thing would undermine public support. So the Pentagon, according to the paper’s Christi Parsons and Julian Barnes, is juking the stats:
The Pentagon cost includes higher combat wages, extra aircraft hours and other operations and maintenance costs, but omits such items as new weapons purchases — one-time costs that vary by year — and support equipment like spy satellites and anti-roadside-bomb technology.
The Pentagon also does not try to estimate costs of new bases for additional soldiers.
But in a memo early this month, obtained by The Times’ Washington bureau, the Pentagon’s own comptroller produced an estimate that broke with the customary Defense formula and did include construction and equipment.
According to that memo, a 40,000-troop increase would cost an additional $30 to $35 billion annually. That’s on top of current war costs — which, as the piece reports, are rather hard to determine with precision. But if we take the memo’s reported calculation of at $750,000 per soldier/sailor/airman/marine annually, then we’re looking at an existing cost of $51 billion before an escalation. (And that seems kind of small, no?) Why the Pentagon thinks that the American people need to be lied to in order to go along with escalation is a whole other story — one that, perhaps, will be told in congressional testimony.
Additionally, it was kind of interesting to see this New York Times story go into how the different troop-escalation options would be implemented without a consideration of how many troops are actually able to deploy.