Costs of War Add Up

05.08.19 | 1 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

“Since September 11, 2001, the Department of Defense (DoD) has obligated $1,534.8 billion for war-related costs,” according to a new Pentagon quarterly report.  See Cost of War Through December 31, 2018, FY 2019, 1st quarter.

The DoD report summarizes and categorizes spending patterns over the past two decades by operation (Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan), by year, by DoD component, and by amount appropriated. The report has been transmitted to the General Accounting Office, but it is otherwise not publicly distributed by the Department of Defense.

The validity of the DoD cost accounting in these periodic reports is questionable, and not only because they exclude the significant costs of health care for wounded personnel, reconstruction, and other war-related costs.

Several past DoD cost of war reports had “systemic problems,” were “inaccurate” and “unreliable,” the Department of Defense Inspector General found earlier this year. See Summary Audit of Systemic Weaknesses in the Cost of War Reports, DODIG-2019-066, March 22, 2019.

“Over the past three years, obligations for war spending have averaged $47 billion per year, mostly to fund the operating support costs of U.S. forces in and around Afghanistan,” according to a recent overview from the Congressional Research Service. See U.S. War Costs, Casualties, and Personnel Levels Since 9/11, CRS In Focus, April 18, 2019.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military last week issued updated doctrine on peace operations, which encompasses five distinct activities: conflict prevention, peacemaking processes, peace enforcement operations (PEO), peacekeeping operations (PKO), and peace building. See Peace Ops: Multi-Service Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for Peace Operations, ATP 3-07.31, May 2, 2019.