Our guest blogger is Sean Duggan, National Security Research Associate at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
In the latest sign that the cost of the war in Iraq will continue to be tallied long after the last U.S. combat troops leave the country, Pentagon officials and members of Congress yesterday estimated that the Pentagon faces more than $100 billion bill to repair and replace worn out or destroyed equipment, vehicles and weapons.
The Army’s reset bill has tremendous implications for the Pentagon’s plan to expand the size of the ground forces by nearly 92,000. According to Congressman John Murtha (D-PA), the cost of replenishing equipment lost in Iraq makes the Pentagon’s plan to add nearly 100,000 new soldiers and Marines unrealistic. Although new troops would help reduce repeated, lengthy deployments, there are other more pressing demands, Murtha said. “It’s going to come from personnel cuts,” Murtha said, in reference to where the Pentagon would cut funding in order to pay for the equipment reset. “That’s where it’s going to come from. They know it.”
Top Pentagon leaders are beginning to recognize that they are going to face a choice between a larger force and restoring equipment damaged or destroyed in Iraq. “We must reset, reconstitute and revitalize our ground forces,” said Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in Senate hearing in May. However, the costs “will force us to a smaller military or force us away from any kind of modernization or programs that we need for the future.”
The Center for Amerian Progress has been warning about the growing ground force equipment crisis for over two years. “Like its personnel,” the 2006 report, Army Equipment After Iraq, pointed out, “the Army’s inventory of equipment is exhibiting increasing signs of combat-related stress. That stress is already eroding the readiness of units outside Iraq and could eventually impede operations within Iraq.” Since the Center released its first in-depth analysis (pdf) of the Army equipment shortage in April of 2006, both the amount of equipment lost and the cumulatve price of replacing Army equipment has grown greatly.
Indeed, today’s $100 billion estimate may be tens of billions of dollars off the mark, according to a recent study (pdf) by the Government Accountability Office. Earlier this year, the GAO estimated that the overall cost of resetting Army equipment and reconstituting prepositioned stocks will come to nearly $130 billion. If one adds the cost of increasing the number and equipment of new Army units as well as equipping restructured modular units, this total jumps to over $191 billion.
In August 2006, the Center released a follow-up report (pdf) on Marine Corps equipment that, like the situation in the Army, found the projected cost of resetting and recovering Marine equipment to be large and growing. “To maintain acceptable readiness levels,” the report noted, “the Marines have been taking equipment from non-deployed units and drawing down Maritime Prepositioned stocks, including equipment stored in Europe, thus limiting their ability to respond to contingencies outside of Iraq.”