The war on terror will last over a century, at least for the
accountants. It works like this. The U.S. Department of Defense is requesting
$481.4 billion for operations in the next fiscal year (which starts this
October.) That is a four percent increase from last years budget. Combat
operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are handled by supplemental funds. Last
year, that amounted to $70 billion, and $93.4 billion is being requested for
next year. The supplemental funds have not covered all the war costs, and a lot
of the actual costs are being covered by the regular budget.
is not all cut and dry. The combat operations are providing a tremendous
advantage in the form of combat experience. Not just for the troops, but also
for those developing new weapons and equipment. Try as they might, the military
can never seem to test new weapons, tactics and equipment as effectively in
peacetime, as they do in wartime.
7,000 or so combat casualties incurred each year are another major "expense,"
not just to the troops killed or injured, but in the long term. Past experience
has shown that the long term care of wounded veterans (and pensions for their
survivors of the dead) gets very expensive, and goes on for a long time. Even
troops who are not wounded in combat, suffer illness and injuries that have
long term consequences. This is particularly true in places like Iraq and
Afghanistan, where there are a lot of diseases that Americans are normally not
exposed to, and that tends to have unexpected long term impact. Note, for
example, that the cost of World War II (over $3 trillion in current money) was
doubled, by the 1990s, because of veterans benefits and obligations. We won't
stop paying for World War II until the 2030s. The last widow of an
American Civil War (1861-65) veteran died in 2003. Thus we can expect
that the war on terror won't be paid for until sometime in the 22nd century.