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Lost Opportunities: Bush Defense Spending is Misplaced

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Publication Date: February 2007

Publisher(s): Center for American Progress

Author(s): P.J. Crowley

Funder(s): Center for American Progress

Funder(s): Center for American Progress

Topic: Military and defense (Military spending)

Type: Report


Amid ongoing congressional debate over President Bush’s troop surge in Iraq, members of Congress and policymakers alike should pay close attention to the opportunity costs that the president’s stubborn and single-minded focus on Iraq has on other dimensions of U.S. national security. The Bush administration’s own budget proposals released yesterday are far and away the best place to begin.

The president’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2008, beginning in October this year, and his fiscal 2007 emergency supplemental budget to pay for current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan bring into sharp focus the escalating cost of the existing strategy. What’s missing from the current debate however, is an understanding of the opportunity costs, or those lost chances to invest in a sound long-term strategy to defend our country.

First, let’s review some numbers. Regarding the national security components of the budget, the president yesterday requested roughly $100 billion in emergency spending for the war on terror. Most of that money will be spent on Iraq, considerably less in Afghanistan.

Together with $70 billion bridge funding contained in the defense appropriations bill Congress passed last fall, the war in Iraq will consume roughly $145 billion in FY2007 beyond what would normally be spent on day-to-day military operations. The actual cost of the Iraq war is much higher when considering both direct and indirect costs. Operations in Afghanistan will cost roughly $25 billion.