Eight years ago, when America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were still raging at full force, the Pentagon’s annual budget for those conflicts amounted to $1 million for each troop who was actually fighting. But today, even as the Obama Administration continues to wind those wars down, the newest proposed Pentagon war-fighting budget would spend $5.9 million per deployed troop, a reflection, critics say, of sleight of hand that puts unrelated spending into a budget that’s supposed to be only for waging war.
“The gulf between troop levels and OCO-designated spending has widened significantly in recent years,” Stimson fellow Laicie Heeley and intern Anna Wheeler write in the 20-page report released May 24. OCO includes a multitude of training efforts for Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, which the Stimson authors argue “no longer require emergency funding” because the initiatives are ongoing and can be easily anticipated year after year. “The funds are actually going to a larger amount of base budget needs,” said Heeley in an interview.
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