Costs of War
United States Budgetary Costs of the Post-9/11 Wars Through FY2019: $5.9 Trillion Spent and Obligated
Neta C. Crawford, Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at Boston University and Co-Director of the Costs of War Project at Brown University.
November 14, 2018
The United States has appropriated and is obligated to spend an estimated $5.9 trillion (in current dollars) on the war on terror through Fiscal Year 2019, including direct war and war-related spending and obligations for future spending on post- 9/11 war veterans (see Table 1). This number differs substantially from the Pentagon’s estimates of the costs of the post-9/11 wars because it includes not only war appropriations made to the Department of Defense – spending in the war zones of Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and in other places the government designates as sites of “overseas contingency operations,” – but also includes spending across the federal government that is a consequence of these wars. Specifically, this is war-related spending by the Department of State, past and obligated spending for war veterans’ care, interest on the debt incurred to pay for the wars, and the prevention of and response to terrorism by the Department of Homeland Security.
If the US continues on its current path, war spending will continue to grow. The Pentagon currently projects $80 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) spending through FY2023. Even if the wars are ended by 2023, the US would still be on track to spend an additional $808 billion (see Table 2) to total at least $6.7 trillion, not including future interest costs. Moreover, the costs of war will likely be greater than this because, unless the US immediately ends its deployments, the number of veterans associated with the post-9/11 wars will also grow. Veterans benefits and disability spending, and the cost of interest on borrowing to pay for the wars, will comprise an increasingly large share of the costs of the US post-9/11 wars.