Released Wednesday by the sponsoring Watson Institute of Brown University, a new multi-author study of the costs of the post-9/11 wars is available at http://costsofwar.org/. Most prominently, the study finds the appropriations thus far to have been between $2.3 and 2.7 trillion; with an additional $884 to $1,334 billion to already have been incurred for future costs for veterans and their families. This would make a total, incurred thus far, of from $3.2 Trillion to $4.0 trillion. (Find a summary of these costs at http://costsofwar.org/article/
economic-cost-summary.) It is important to note that these are budget costs to the federal government, not the broader economic costs to the economy or even other costs to state and local governments.
The study also addresses those broader costs, such as the human costs in terms of civilian dead, the wounded, refugees, and more.
There is certainly some you will find to disagree with, but it is clear that advocates of the various conflicts who pretend the costs have been only the $1 trillion that President Obama articulated last week are feeding the nation grotesquely inaccurate information. Others, like departing SecDef Gates, who pretend that DOD spending is not a major factor in the size of our deficit are not particularly skilled in "math," an elementary skill for government types that Secretary Gates has chosen to deride and ignore.
I participated in the Costs of War study; my paper on the DOD costs is at http://costsofwar.org/sites/
default/files/articles/39/ attachments/Wheeler% 20Pentagon%20Spending.pdf. It makes two basic points on p. 14:
1) "... while [the Congressional Research Service] and others have done long, hard, and excellent work to capture the identifiable appropriations to the Pentagon for the Post-9/11 wars, the $1.2 trillion CRS has, for example, identified in current dollars is problematic, but the fault is not with CRS, CBO, or GAO. The available figures have gaping holes and problems in them because of the sloppy, inept and misleading accounting of the costs by the Defense Department and Congress."
2) "The $667 billion in 2011 dollars ($617 billion in current dollars) appropriated to the Defense Department's base budget since 2001 as a result of the wars, while squandered, should be included in any comprehensive attempt to capture the total cost of the wars. These amounts would bring the total DOD costs of the wars to $1.98 Trillion in constant 2011 dollars and $1.82 trillion in current dollars."
A Reuters story below summarizes the overall "Costs of War" study.