Friday, April 22, 2011

The Global War on Terror – The Costs

Ever wonder what type of information is available to elected officials as they continue to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

The Congressional Research Service actually provides a huge number of authoritative reports for members of Congress. Amy Belasco is the author of a number that look at the financial cost of the global war on terror. Her most recent update was released at the end of March 2011. She has a interesting section at the end on previous congressional efforts to cut funding to wars.

The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11
Amy Belasco
, Specialist in U.S. Defense Policy and Budget
Congressional Research Service, March 29, 2011

Here is what else you will find.

“Congress has approved a total of $1.283 trillion for military operations, base security, reconstruction, foreign aid, embassy costs, and veterans’ health care for the three operations initiated since the 9/11 attacks…”


Between FY2009 and FY2010, average monthly DOD spending for Afghanistan grew from $4.4 billion to $6.7 billion a month, a 50% increase while average troop strength almost doubled from 44,000 to 84,000 as part of the troop surge announced by the President last year. Troop strength in Afghanistan is expected to average 102,000 in FY2011. DOD’s plans call for troop levels to fall by less than 4,000 in FY2012 unless the President decides otherwise as part of his decision to “begin transition to Afghan security lead in early 2011. . . [to ] a responsible, conditions-based U.S. troop reduction in July 2011.” At the same time, the President announced a long-term U.S. commitment to a NATO summit goal of “a path to complete transition by the end of 2014.” It is currently unclear how quickly or slowly troop levels will fall this summer or in later years to meet these goals.”


“Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States has initiated three military operations:

Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) covering primarily Afghanistan and other small Global War on Terror (GWOT) operations ranging from the Philippines to Djibouti that began immediately after the 9/11 attacks and continues;

Operation Noble Eagle (ONE) providing enhanced security for U.S. military bases and other homeland security that was launched in response to the attacks and continues at a modest level; and

Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) that began in the fall of 2002 with the buildup of troops for the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, continued with counter-insurgency and stability operations, and is slated to be renamed Operation New Dawn as U.S. troops focus on an advisory and assistance role.”


Some 94% of this funding goes to the Department of Defense (DOD) to cover primarily incremental war-related costs, that is, costs that are in addition to DOD’s normal peacetime activities. ..


[T]he Administration initiated several programs specifically targeted at problems that developed in the Afghan and Iraq wars:

Coalition support to cover the logistical costs of allies, primarily Pakistan, conducting counter-terror operations in support of U.S. efforts;

Commanders Emergency Response Program (CERP) providing funds to individual commanders for small reconstruction projects and to pay local militias in Iraq and Afghanistan to counter insurgent or Taliban groups;

Afghan Security Forces Fund and the Iraq Security Forces Fund to pay the cost of training, equipping and expanding the size of the Afghan and Iraqi armies and police forces; and

Joint Improvised Explosive Device (IEDs) Defeat Fund to develop, buy, and deploy new devices to improve force protection for soldiers against roadside bombs or IEDs.


Congressional Options to Affect Military Operations

As interest in alternate policies for first Iraq and now Afghanistan has grown, Congress may turn to the Vietnam, and other experience to look for ways to affect military operations and troop levels in Iraq. In the past, Congress has considered both funding and non-funding options. Most observers would maintain that restrictions tied to appropriations have been more effective.

Restrictive funding options generally prohibit the obligation or expenditure of current or previously appropriated funds. Obligations occur when the government pays military or civilian personnel, or the services sign contracts or place orders to buy goods or services. Expenditures, or outlays, take place when payment is provided.

The Vietnam Experience

Past attempts or provisions to restrict funding have followed several patterns, including those that cut off funding


One or both houses may also state a “sense of the Congress,” or non-binding resolution that does not need to be signed by the President, that U.S. military operations should be wound down or ended or forces withdrawn.

While only a handful of provisions have been enacted, congressional consideration of these various limiting provisions did place pressure on the Administration and thus influenced the course of events. For example, the well-known Cooper-Church provision that prohibited the introduction of U.S. ground troops into Cambodia was enacted in early 1971 after U.S. forces had invaded and then been withdrawn from Cambodia. That provision was intended to prevent the reintroduction of troops.69 Although President Nixon did not reintroduce U.S. troops, the United States continued to bomb Cambodia for the next three years.

Later in 1973, Congress passed two provisions that prohibited the obligation or expenditures of “any funds in this or any previous law on or after August 15, 1973” for combat “in or over or from off the shores of North Vietnam, South Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia.”70 The final version of that provision reflected negotiations between the Administration and Congress about when the prohibition would go into effect, with August 15, 1973 set in the enacted version. Bombing did, in fact, stop on that day.

Several well-known proposals that were not enacted—two McGovern-Hatfield amendments and an earlier Cooper-Church amendment—were also part of this Vietnam-era jockeying between the Administration and Congress. One McGovern-Hatfield amendment prohibited expenditure of previously appropriated funds after a specified date “in or over Indochina,” except for the purpose of withdrawing troops or protecting our Indochinese allies, while another also prohibited spending funds to support more than a specified number of troops unless the president notified the Congress of the need for a 60 day extension. The earlier Cooper-Church amendment prohibited the expenditure of any funds after July 1, 1970 to retain troops in Cambodia “unless specifically authorized by law hereafter.”

Generally, Congress continued to provide funds for U.S. troops in Vietnam at the requested levels as the Nixon Administration reduced troop levels. Overall, funding restrictions have generally proven more effective than the War Powers Act, which has been challenged by the executive branch on constitutional grounds.

Recent Restrictions Proposed

Most recently, as part of the July 1, 2010 debate over the House amended version of H.R. 4899, the FY2010 Supplemental, the House considered three amendments designed to restrict funding or troop levels for the Afghan war. The amendments are similar to some of those proposed during the Vietnam war.

Amendment No. 3 would delete all military funding for the Afghan war , and was defeated 25 to 376.

Amendment No. 4 would limit the obligation and expenditure of funds to the protection and “safe and orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan of all members of the Armed Forces and Department of Defense contractor personnel who are in Afghanistan,” and was defeated 100 to 321.

Amendment No. 5 would require the President to submit a plan for a “safe, orderly, and expeditious redeployment of the Armed Forces from Afghanistan,” along with a “timetable for the completion of that redeployment and information regarding variables that could alter that timetable,” as well as require that none of the funds in the act be obligated or expended “in a manner that is inconsistent with the President’s policy announced on December 1, 2009, to begin the orderly withdrawal of United States troops from Afghanistan after July 1, 2011,” unless the Congress approves a joint resolution that would receive expedited consideration in both houses. This amendment was defeated 162 to 260.

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Afghanistan 101 is a blog of the American Friends Service Committee
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