'War on Terror' may cost $2.4 trillion

Congressional Budget Office expects the funds would keep 75,000 troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for the next 10 years.

By Steve Hargreaves, CNNMoney.com staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and anti terrorist efforts abroad could cost the country $2.4 trillion over the next ten years, according to a report Wednesday.

The money, over 70 percent of which would go to support operations in Iraq, includes the estimated $600 billion spent since 2001, Congressional Budget Office Director Peter Orszag said in testimony before the House Budget Committee. That estimate includes projected interest, since the government is borrowing most of the funds required.

The $2.4 trillion would pay to keep 75,000 troops deployed overseas from 2013 to 2017. About 210,000 troops are currently deployed. It does not include the Pentagon's normal spending, which in 2007 is estimated to be about $450 billion.

The estimated $2.4 trillion works out to about $21,500 per American household.

Without interest, the war efforts are projected to cost about $1.7 trillion. Several lawmakers noted the wide gap.

"This entire war has been paid for with a government credit card," one lawmaker said.

The CBO also prepared another estimate, this one reducing the number of troops overseas to 30,000 beginning in 2010 and not relying on borrowed funds.

Under that scenario the wars are expected to cost about $1.2 trillion.

In the runup to the Iraq war in 2003, Bush administration officials said that forcibly changing regimes in Iraq should cost somewhere around $50 billion, and would be financed mostly through selling Iraqi oil.

But in relation to the nation's overall economy, it's been noted that the war is relatively cheap.

The entire Defense Department budget, including funding for Iraq and Afghanistan, is about 4.5 percent of the nation's economy. During the Vietnam War it was about 7 percent, and during WW II it was 25 percent.

Orszag's testimony comes as President Bush is asking Congress for more money to fight in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

On Monday, President Bush asked for another $42 billion for war efforts on top of the $142 billion already requested for the current fiscal year, bringing the overall total for 2007-08 to nearly $200 billion. This is extra money for the war, above and beyond the Pentagon's regular budget of about $450 billion, which accounts for about a sixth of the $2.8 trillion in total government spending for 2007.

The request is not expected to easily pass through a Congress controlled by Democrats, who are unhappy with the way the war is going and uneasy about giving the president unrestricted funding. The Democrats are also bristling over Bush's opposition to some domestic spending proposals.

"It's amazing to me that the President expects to be taken seriously when he says we cannot afford $20 billion in investments in education, health, law enforcement and science, but he doesn't blink an eye at asking to borrow $200 billion for a policy in Iraq that leaves us six months from now exactly where we were six months ago," House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey (D-WI), said in a statement Monday.

Bush has urged Congress to approve the money before the end of the year, but congressional staffers say it's more likely legislators will only approve partial funding and take up the matter again in 2008. Top of page