By Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
Common sense would dictate that a country that’s spent 10 years fighting two different wars would at least keep track of the fiscal sacrifice that’s been made. But the truth is that Uncle Sam really can’t say for sure how deep it’s had to dig to finance the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns.
Officially, Congress has approved $1.36 trillion for war spending through fiscal year 2011. But that’s not a complete answer, because in addition to specific appropriations for the wars, the Department of Defense spent an unknown amount of its regular budget over the past decade—which totaled $5.2 trillion—on fighting Iraqi and Afghan insurgents.
A study produced at Brown University took a stab and estimated that the wars have consumed $3.7 trillion, or more than $12,000 per American. Among the costs are $20 billion a year to bring air-conditioning to U.S. troops in Afghanistan. To give some perspective, the State Department’s entire foreign operation budget for FY 2012 is less than $33 billion…and that includes more than $4 billion to be spent in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Another assessment by Chris Hellman of the National Priorities Project reckoned that the Pentagon burned through an average of $9.7 billion a month from the time of the Afghanistan invasion in 2001 through the end of April this year (this includes the Iraq war too, as well as various aspects of homeland security spending).