WASHINGTON — Overseas combat operations since 2001 have cost the United States an estimated $4.3 trillion so far, and trillions more in veterans benefits spending in years to come, according to the latest analysis from the Costs of War project.
The annual analysis from Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs shows a steadily growing tally for the 16 years of wars overseas. Study author Neta Crawford said the goal of the ongoing project is to better illustrate the true costs of overseas military operations.
“Every war costs money before, during and after it occurs — as governments prepare for, wage, and recover from armed conflict by replacing equipment, caring for the wounded and repairing infrastructure destroyed in the fighting,” she wrote in the 2017 report.
Of the total, only about $1.9 trillion has been reported by defense officials as official overseas contingency operations funding.
But the research includes another $880 billion in new base defense spending related to combat efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Pakistan since 2001, as well as about $780 billion in boosted Department of Homeland Security costs in that time frame.
Veterans spending has increased by almost $300 billion so far as a result of those conflicts, and future spending on those benefits over the next four decades is estimated to top $1 trillion more.
Crawford noted that all of the costs could rise with President Donald Trump’s recent decision to boost U.S. end strength in Afghanistan.
“There is no end in sight to the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and the associated operations in Pakistan,” she wrote.
Administration officials have already requested about $70 billion more in overseas contingency spending as part of their fiscal 2018 budget proposal. The entire federal budget plan, including mandatory benefits spending, totals about $4 trillion.
The full Costs of War report is available on the university’s web site.
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.