December 7, 2009

December 7, 2009 | Factsheet on National Security and Defense

The War in Afghanistan: Costs in Context

The Real Costs

  • A Small Price to Pay: The war in Afghanistan cost $51 billion in 2009. The Administration has requested $65 billion in war funding for fiscal year 2010. The deployment of 30,000 additional troops will add approximately $30 billion in new costs, bringing total spending on the war in 2010 to approximately $95 billion.
  • War a Tiny Fraction of Federal Spending: The $51 billion cost of the war in 2009 is just 1.4% of the $3.5 trillion spent by Washington that year and 2.8% of the $1.4 trillion budget deficit. Even though overall defense spending has grown 81% in real terms since 9/11, it is still responsible for less than 19% of all new spending over that period.
  • Small Relative to America's Past Wars: Paying for World War II cost nearly half of the nation's economy or gross domestic product (GDP). Fighting the Korean War consumed about 14% of GDP, and the Vietnam War cost about 9%. By contrast, the portion of the defense budget that funds wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is just 1% of GDP in 2009.

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  • Far Less Than TARP, Bailouts, and the Stimulus: The $210 billion lifetime cost of the war from 2001 to 2009 is just one-third of the $787 billion stimulus, or a fifth of the $1.2 trillion price tag for the first 10 years of the House health reform bill. The $241 billion net cost of TARP and the $389 billion bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac both exceed spending on the Afghanistan war to date.
  • Smaller Than the Annual Growth in Entitlements: The entire cost of military operations in Afghanistan in 2009 was less than the increase in Social Security spending, which grew by $66 billion over the course of the year from $617 billion in 2008 to $683 billion in 2009. Medicare, Medicaid, and other entitlements are also growing faster than tax revenues at an unsustainable rate of around 8% per year.
  • One Year of Welfare Under Obama Eclipses Seven-Year Cost of Iraq War: According to the Congressional Research Service, the cost of the Iraq war through the end of the Bush Administration was around $622 billion. By contrast, annual federal and state means-tested welfare spending will reach $888 billion in FY 2010. Federal welfare spending alone will equal $697 billion in that year.

Affordable Choices

  • Cut Domestic Programs to Pay for National Security: The federal government is projected to spend almost $3.8 trillion in 2010. Between Medicare fraud, government subsidies and bailouts, Cash for Clunkers, and so on, Congress should be able to cut spending by 2.6%. Not only would it then offset the costs of the war, but it would be a serious gesture of fiscal responsibility.

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