Afghanistan War Costs
Aug. 22, 2011
The War in Afghanistan began officially on October 7, 2001. Since then, 1,721 American service members have lost their lives1 and the federal government has spent almost $460 billion on this conflict2. Another way of considering the cost of the war is its “opportunity costs;” that is, what government activities or programs could otherwise have been funded if $460 billion had not been allocated for the war. The following charts offer spending comparisons.
While the allocations for guns, ships, and tanks are astronomical in their own right, the cost for caring for our wounded soldiers when they return from combat is rising now and will impact the federal budget for decades to come. The total expenditures of the Veterans’ Affairs Administration doubled from $54 billion in Fiscal Year 2002, when the war began, to $108 billion in Fiscal Year 20103.
42 states and the District of Columbia are facing serious budget shortfalls for Fiscal Year 2012, which make up an average of 15% of their annual spending4. This year’s spending on the Afghanistan war would more than pay to plug the holes in these state budgets, which states pass on to citizens in heavy benefit and service cuts and/or higher taxes.
Pell Grants are $5,500 (maximum) grants given to low-income college students to help them afford the cost of their education. Studies have shown that students who receive Pell Grants complete their post-secondary educations more rapidly than non-recipients5. Further, the availability of financial aid is a major factor in determining if and where a low-income student attends college. This year’s spending on the war in Afghanistan would cover the total amount of Pell Grants awarded since the start of the war through Fiscal Year 2009, the last year data is available.
Department of Defense Casualty Status. Retrieved 10 Aug 2011.
This and other war spending numbers are available at CostofWar.com.
Expenditure totals taken from the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics on the Veteran Affairs Administrations’ website.
“States Continue to Feel Recessions’ Impact”. Elizabeth McNichol, Phil Oliff and Nicholas Johnson, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Retrieved 10 Aug 2011.
“A Profile of Successful Pell Grant Recipients: Time to Bachelor’s Degree and Early Graduate School Enrollment”. Christina Chang Wei and Laura Horn, National Center for Educational Statistics. Retrieved 16 Aug 2011.