Important New CRS Report on War Spending

October 16th, 2005 - by admin

Winslow T. Wheeler / Center for Defense Information – 2005-10-16 23:07:36

(October 13, 2005) — From Sept. 11, 2001, to last week, the federal government has spent $357 billion on the “Global War on Terror.” These expenses include military operations, reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan and security at US bases and embassies overseas. To date, $326 billion has been appropriated to the Department of Defense and $31 billion was appropriated to the Department of State and the Agency for International Development.

Broken down a different way, $251 billion has been spent for fighting and reconstruction in Iraq; $82 billion was spent in Afghanistan. Average monthly spending in Iraq has increased 18 percent to $6 billion, and in Afghanistan spending has decreased 8 percent to $1 billion, compared to 2004. If the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan go relatively smoothly, the United States might spend another $570 billion between 2006 and 2010.

Despite, or perhaps because of, the magnitude of these expenditures, the Department of Defense continues to show the same gross incompetence in tracking and reporting this spending as it does in its regular budget. In this case, DoD appears to have lost track of $7.1 billion appropriated by Congress for war spending, which DoD did not include in its spending reports to itself or to Congress.

At the same time, DoD transferred $7 billion to $14 billion in peacetime program funds (mostly from postponed training and deferred equipment repair accounts) to operations costs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Overspending and Under-performing
Moreover, DoD obligations for war purposes have repeatedly exceeded congressional appropriations, and the department used $2.5 billion appropriated in 2001 and 2002 for Afghanistan to instead prepare for the invasion of Iraq, which raises major constitutional and legal questions.

Finally, DoD reporting techniques make it extremely difficult to determine just what is spent for missions in Iraq and Afghanistan and for base security, and it is virtually impossible to track what DoD plans to spend for these missions compared to what is actually spent. Congress is requiring DoD to improve its reporting on some, but certainly not all, of these issues – if, indeed, the Pentagon is able to.

These revelations are part of an important new unclassified report, not released to the public, from the Congressional Research Service (CRS). The startling report synthesized research from the Congressional Budget Office and the Government Accountability Office, and, to CRS’s great credit, the study also details findings CRS developed on its own from the impenetrable fog of DoD financial management.

An important consideration, briefly but not comprehensively, addressed in the CRS report is the fact that not all of the funds requested by the president and appropriated by Congress are actually for the “Global War against Terror.”

The president routinely seeks “emergency” money for programs more appropriate for regular Department of Defense appropriations, such as for the reorganization of Army divisions into independent brigades; and Congress routinely shifts peacetime spending and pork into war appropriations in order to give the money a “free ride,” independent of the “spending caps” set by congressional budget resolutions.

Winslow Wheeler is a CDI Visiting Senior Fellow

• This CRS report can be downloaded here.