Evidence Screaming Reconsideration

Did you see this from CNN.com?

To what end? What have we accomplished?

By Larry Shaughnessy

Keeping one American service member in Afghanistan costs between $850,000 and $1.4 million a year, depending on who you ask. But one matter is clear, that cost is going up.

During a budget hearing today on Capitol Hill, Sen. Kent Conrad, D-North Dakota, asked Department of Defense leaders, “What is the cost per soldier, to maintain a soldier for a year in Afghanistan?” Under Secretary Robert Hale, the Pentagon comptroller, responded “Right now about $850,000 per soldier.”

Conrad seemed shocked at the number.
“That kind of takes my breath away, when you tell me it’s $850,000,” Conrad said

If that’s the case he’d really be shocked by the estimate that the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments reached about the same issue.

“The cost per troop in Afghanistan has averaged $1.2 million per troop per year,” the center’s Todd Harrison wrote in an analysis of last year’s Department of Defense budget.

Why the difference? Harrison said the center arrives at its figure by taking “the amount of money spent in Afghanistan for a year and dividing it up by the number of soldiers.”

He believes Hale’s estimate is lower because the Pentagon removes some costs, like construction, from the Afghanistan spending and divides that lower number by the number of troops.

But one thing is clear, the cost is rising. Hale said the Department of Defense figure was until recently $600,000 a year. And Harrison said the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments’ estimate for 2012 is up to $1.4 million.

Harrison said there are two important factors contributing to the increase. There are fewer troops in Afghanistan than in 2011, and the latest Defense budget puts millions into war spending that in previous years were part of the department’s base budget.

Hale sees another reason why it’s climbing. The major component of the extra costs in Afghanistan are higher operating costs for weapons. When you’re in a war you are operating a much higher tempo. “That’s a good part that’s probably 50% of the budget,” he testified.

One thing is clear, the soldier impacts only a small percentage of that cost. A typical army sergeant with four years service makes a base pay of less than $30,000 a year.

 

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • T

    Those numbers are good to provide that shock, but as the article suggests, that’s less about the soldier than it is about the overall costs of our ongoing mission(s) and presence.

    Literally blowing up and rebuilding nations is an enormously costly undertaking.

  • Amos Paul
  • Amos Paul

    *numberS

    Bah.

  • Joe Canner

    “What have we accomplished?” Ticking off most of the population of Afghanistan, it seems…

    According to NPR this morning, even before the Quran burning episode, USAID couldn’t put its insignia on aid to Afghan refugees (who are suffering more than usual at the moment because of a harsh winter) because of the anti-American sentiment. For example, people couldn’t wrap themselves in blankets with an American flag on them because they would be in danger from their fellow refugees.

    (Ironically, the point of the NPR story was that some refugees were complaining that the US wasn’t helping enough and that they didn’t know the US was in fact helping because USAID isn’t labeling its aid.)

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    This is great! Considering our target should be to have the cost per soldier as high as possible. That means we do not have many soldiers there but a lot of automation and robotics. That’s what we want.

  • William S.

    They should try to include the projected future medical fees of all the injured veterans. The money spent “in Afghanistan” may be a fraction of the total cost of this war.

  • Fish

    No surprise. The higher the per-soldier cost, the more corporate profit there is. It’s no different than health care.


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