MAY 10, 2016
The United States has been involved in some form of warfare or conflict for most of the period since 1941, and has been continuously at war since September 11, 2001—nearly a decade and a half. The United States has never, however, come to grips with the reality of its involvement in such conflicts. Its official reporting on each conflict has been erratic at best, and has never really addressed the details of the cost of its wars, nor has it ever really addressed its strategies or how they were intended to be implemented. Furthermore, official U.S. reporting has not provided net assessments of the forces involved, nor has it provided a clear picture of the effectiveness of its military and civil efforts.
A new study by the Burke Chair at CSIS examines the cost of U.S. fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and other “wars” related to terrorism and extremism as it is reported in U.S. budget data on Overseas Contingency Operations. This study is entitled Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) and the Uncertain Cost of U.S. Wars, and is available on the CSIS web site athttp://csis.org/files/publication/160510_OCO_US_Wars.pdf.
The study puts these cost estimates in the broader context of estimates of the past cost of U.S. wars, the relative size of U.S. military efforts compared to other powers, the overall burden that military spending puts on the U.S. economy, and how spending on U.S. wars compares to the overall levels of spending on defense. It shows that:
The cost of U.S. wars since 2001 has been substantial, and has been high relative to past limited U.S. wars as measured in constant dollars.