Cost for a single soldier to fight in Iraq or Afghanistan is about $775,000 per year

The U.S. military is now spending more – on a constant dollar basis – than it did in 1968, when the Defense Department had more than 500,000 soldiers stationed in South Vietnam. If you include the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, then the U.S. military spent about $580 billion in 2007; that’s about 33 percent more – again, measured in constant (year 2000) dollars – than the United States spent in 1968. Even without the cost of those ongoing wars, America’s military spending is higher now than at any time since 1945.

A recent study by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis, a Washington-based think tank, provides yet more sobering numbers. The report, written by the CSBA’s Steven M. Kosiak, concludes that “since 2001, some $904 billion has been provided to cover the cost of US military operations. This includes some $687 billion for Iraq, $184 billion for Afghanistan and $33 billion for various homeland security activities.”

And while that number is daunting, Kosiak estimates that by 2018, the total spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with related spending on veterans’ health care and other matters, could reach $1.7 trillion. The 88-page report, which includes 182 footnotes, provides an exhaustive look at the cost of Bush’s foreign adventures. It also provides a more modest estimate of the cost of those adventures than that provided by Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, who have famously estimated the costs of the war on terrorism at over $3 trillion.

But the truly astounding number in Kosiak’s report comes on page 38, where he estimates that the total cost of sending a single soldier to fight in Iraq or Afghanistan is about $775,000 per year. Kosiak came up with that number by using data published in March by the Congressional Budget Office. He writes that the $775,000 per year figure “is some three times more than CBO projected in 2002, based on the cost of recent past wars, and about 70 percent more than its estimate from 2005.” Kosiak says that the soaring cost of keeping soldiers in the war zones is due to inflation, changes in force levels, and the increases in funding requested by the Department of Defense.

Kosiak’s estimate of the daily cost of deployment is particularly important given Obama’s plans to send an additional 20,000 U.S. soldiers to Afghanistan, a move that could bolster the U.S. presence there to about 52,000. And some analysts are projecting that the U.S. could need more than 100,000 troops to stabilize the vast country.

But at a cost of more than $2,100 per day per soldier, a military expansion of that magnitude will be incredibly costly. And it’s not at all clear that the U.S. can afford such an increase at a time when the U.S. treasury – and the U.S. economy – are in such parlous condition. Further, it’s essential to remember how quickly the costs of Bush’s “global war on terrorism” are increasing. In 2005, the Congressional Research Service put the cost of keeping one U.S. soldier in Afghanistan at about $275,000 per year. By early 2006, the cost of keeping one soldier on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan had jumped to about $400,000 per year. Now Kosiak is estimating that actual cost of keeping a soldier deployed is nearly twice the estimate that the CRS published just two years ago.

A surge in inflation (which is almost certainly coming, thanks to the U.S. government’s huge fiscal deficit and the plans for yet-bigger deficits) will likely send Kosiak’s $775,000-per-year estimate even higher. Thus, by 2011 or so, the cost of keeping a soldier deployed in a war zone might top $1 million per year. And the Department of Defense has already declared its belief in the “long war” against terrorism. In early 2006, in its Quadrennial Defense Review, a closely watched document that reveals much of the Pentagon’s strategic thinking, the Department of Defense’s top leadership said that the war against terrorist networks “may well be fought in dozens of other countries simultaneously and for many years to come.”

By keeping Robert Gates in his job as the Secretary of Defense, Obama has clearly opted for stability in the top ranks at the Pentagon. But Obama has yet to make clear just how willing he is to provide “the change we need” when it comes to reining in America’s massively expensive military machine.

December 30, 2008

Full article: CounterPunch

9 thoughts on “Cost for a single soldier to fight in Iraq or Afghanistan is about $775,000 per year”

  1. The United States public does not understand what these wars are what is bankrupting them. The war industry or war based economy of the United States is making billions for a few key players and the American public is carrying the great financial tax burden of that policy. The crazy thing is that they can’t see it. They send their children to war to have them blown up and then still “support” the troops. I believe that they should be doing everything in their power to stop this madness. Their children are being sacrificed for the oil company’s greed and profits. Securing pipeline routes and strategic military advantages. Not to mention the companies who make huge profits to build the war planes and other military machines of madness.

  2. Lesson not learned.

    $775,000 per year for a solider? In Vietnam we used million dollar planes to bomb $10 bicycle on the Ho Chi Minh Trail and we still lost the war. What good is the finest military in the world, if you lack the will to win?

    And now we declare victory in Iraq and go home. Someone needs to explain to the insurgents that they lost the war and need to go home as well. Give Iraq 6 months to a year and it will blow up into a bloody mess the way Afghanistan did when the Soviets pulled out.

  3. The numbers are fudged. Not literally, but for effect. In peacetime, to train a private to fix aircraft runs about 1/2 million. If that soldier does a four year tour and discharges, that is 112k a year for him, in peacetime. A pilot drops 100k in ordance on a mission, and flies 150 missions a year…..think about it. Bullets, bombs, fuel, maintenace on planes and tanks and carriers….yes it cost more during conflict, but it always costs a lot. Thes numbers are factored in to a “per soldier” cost representation. The real answer would be to see what that number is in peacetime as well.

    The word INFLATION kept getting mentioned. So why aren’t you crabbing about that?

  4. The u.s. spends to much money, They worry too much about other countries businesses. They should just spend the rest of the military budget to pull out troops. Those political idiots don’t know where they are going.

  5. My question is how much money is actually spent on the soldier him or her self. Alot of this “money that is spent us soldiers) dont actually get to the soldier themselves.As a soldier deployed to Afghanistan I see what is spent on us and what is spent not on us. You cant just say since money is going into Afghanistan that it’s all at the cost of the soldiers


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