The Cost of War

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told members of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense panel on June 11 that the cost of drawing down forces in Afghanistan has been “significantly more” expensive than originally anticipated. In fact, “at least 25 percent and perhaps up to a third of the shortfall in the readiness accounts” can be attributed to “unanticipated war costs” not sequestration, said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) during the same hearing. “Although the number of US troops in Afghanistan will decline substantially over the course of [Fiscal] 2014, military operations in support of the transition to full Afghan responsibility will continue at a high pace, and certain costs will grow or remain the same,” noted Hagel in his prepared testimony. For example, military support of the transition will continue “at a high pace” even though the number of US troops in theater will “decline substantially” throughout Fiscal 2014, wrote Hagel. “Transportation and retrograde costs [also] will increase substantially as we ship tens of thousands of cargo containers and pieces of equipment back home,” he added. There will be an additional cost to retrograde equipment worn down by more than a decade of continuous conflict, he concluded. (See also Post-2014 Afghanistan Picture Emerging.)