A new Congressional study finds that President Bush's plans for the U.S. in Iraq over the next several decades will reach the trillions of dollars, on top of the approximately $567 billion the war has already cost. That accounting assumes a significant troop draw-down -- and still tallies a daunting expense for the United States.
We've added the report to our document collection. You can read it here
On June 1, during a trip to U.S. Pacific Command in Honolulu, Defense Secretary Robert Gates mused
about how to "posture ourselves" in Iraq "for the long term." The Vietnam experience underscored the undesirability of a sudden, abrupt withdrawal. Far better for the U.S. to follow the experiences of post-conflict garrisoning in Korea and Japan, he said: "a mutually agreed arrangement whereby we have a long and enduring presence." President Bush is reportedly intrigued
by the so-called Korea model, wherein the U.S. has guaranteed security on the Korean peninsula with at least four U.S. Army combat brigades for half a century. Indeed, in his speech on Thursday
, Bush declared himself ready to build an "enduring relationship" between the U.S. and Iraq.
The study, conducted by the Congressional Budget Office, decided to follow the Korea model to calculate its expense. Since it's unclear for how long or under what conditions combat operations will ensue, the CBO projects both a combat and a non-combat presence. Both, however, are projected to require 55,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. The combat scenario entails one-time costs of $4 to $8 billion, with annual expenses of $25 billion, projected outward. Under the non-combat scenario, a $8 billion one-time cost -- mainly for the construction of additional "enduring" bases -- would be followed by annual costs of $10 billion or less.
A prior CBO study, released in August, estimated
(large pdf) that U.S. costs in Iraq from 2009 to 2017 will total approximately $1 trillion on the assumption of a troop presence of 75,000. On top of that, under the reduced-force combat scenario envisioned in this CBO estimate, the U.S. will spend another $1 trillion by 2057 -- the lifespan of the U.S.'s Korean presence to date.
All estimates are in 2008 dollars. Both estimates are arguably conservative. In the combat scenario, for instance, Army units serve 12-month tours, whereas they now serve 15-month tours. In the non-combat scenario, the CBO ratcheted down the Defense Department's cost-of-war estimates to reflect "lower costs for such items as equipment maintenance, fuel and consumable materials."