Annual expenditures for the Iraq war will reach $117.6 billion this fiscal year, according to today’s Wall Street Journal.
That’s an 18 percent increase over the previous 12-month period. Monthly expenditures in Iraq are running at $5.9 billion plus another $1 billion for Afghanistan.
All of that in spite of the fact that troop levels are supposed to be drawn down this year. The Pentagon estimates personnel costs will decrease by 14 percent this year, but that is offset by big increases for the procurement of new equipment - $25.7 billion in 2006, up from $18.8 billion in 2005. Also, maintenance spending is up 30 percent.
Why is this? Higher fuel prices are part of the reason. Another is the loss of support from National Guard troops who have been sent home after their mobilization has run its course. To make up for the loss of manpower, the military has been hiring contractors for all the logistical chores that the Guard used to help out with.
“They don’t have enough people,” said Rep. John Murtha, D-Penn.
The WSJ goes on to report that three years in Iraq has taken its toll on stocks of military equipment requiring the creation of in-country maintenance facilities in Iraq.
“There are unprecedented costs. It’s staggering,” says U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, a member of the Appropriations Committee.
All of this has given us “...a total defense budget that in real dollars surpasses those of the Vietnam War era and the defense buildup under Ronald Reagan at the height of the Cold War.”
We are now entering our fourth year in Iraq with the country teetering on the verge of Civil War. We can’t afford to keep this up. We already have record deficits that are weighing down the economy. Our military is stretched past the breaking point. And we are being led by an administration that has proven itself to be dangerously incompetent and is incapable of figuring any good way out of this mess.