President Barack Obama proposed war spending Thursday that nears $11 billion a month for the next year and a half despite the planned drawdown of US forces in Iraq.
The Obama administration wants to spend about $75 billion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through next fall, costs that were largely set by the Bush administration. On top of that, the new budget proposal asks Congress for $130 billion for next year. It is not clear whether Obama's promise to bring combat troops home from Iraq will carry a cost savings in the near term. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the budget for next year figures in new costs for Afghanistan, and he warned that the process of pulling out tens of thousands of forces from Iraq will be expensive.
The United States has been spending some $11 billion to $12 billion per month fighting two wars. For comparison, providing universal preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds in the U.S. would cost the government roughly $35 billion a year by several estimates. Before the war began in 2003, Pentagon planners had estimated the entire cost of the conflict at about $50 billion.
"The president is working with his military commanders to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan while responsibly removing combat forces from Iraq," the White House budget summary said. Details of military spending were not included. Obama has said he will no longer hide the full costs of the war, as he accused his predecessor of doing. He did include a special category for war spending in material released to support his budget request for next year.
In years past, the Bush administration separated its spending for things such as weapons and military pay from the cost of the wars. It was something of an accounting trick that some Democrats grumbled hid the exorbitant cost of the war in Iraq by keeping it out of the U.S. annual budget.
Obama's budget does not list the projected costs for each war individually, and a defense official said the $130 billion war request also includes some costs for other overseas spending such as military help in Pakistan.
And, as in years past, the figure for what Obama now calls "overseas contingency operations" does not give the complete picture of war spending. Like the old separate war requests under the Bush administration, the Obama category omits military pay, health care and other costs.
Those costs are part of the nearly $534 billion Obama wants for regular Pentagon operations next year.
Altogether, Obama is asking for $739 billion for the military through the fall of 2010.