Congress wants every taxpayer to know just how much of their money went to wars over the last 15 years.
Tucked into the annual defense authorization bill — expected to become law in coming days — is a provision requiring the Defense Secretary and Internal Revenue Service Commissioner to post online all of the costs, "including the relevant legacy costs, to each American taxpayer of each of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria."
The information will be posted on the IRS web site after being compiled with help from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., the lawmaker behind the effort, said he hopes it spurs conversation among the public about the costs of war.
"It's important for people to know how much we're spending on wars," he told reporters last week. "It's my hope that people will make contact with their elected representatives and say we should spend more on peace, less on violence and war.
"We're spending too much on violence, war and chaos."
Lewis has unsuccessfully pushed for the provision over the last three years, but got the costs report added as a non-controversial floor amendment to the massive defense budget policy bill earlier this year.
Defense Department officials have provided frequent updates on the costs of overseas operations since 2001. The latest estimates for the campaign against Islamic State group militants are about $12.5 million a day, and close to $10.5 billion over the last two-plus years.
Congressional estimates put the cost of Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn in Iraq at more than $800 billion from 2003 to 2011. Operations in Afghanistan have had a price tag of more than $700 billion since 2001.
But outside analysts have pegged the true costs of military action in the Middle East and Afghanistan at more than $5 trillion, once State Department, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs costs are factored in.
Timing and parameters of the taxpayers’ war costs postings are not specified in the measure. The bill is expected to be signed into law by President Barack Obama in coming days, despite concerns he has expressed about other sections of the legislation.
Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.