Entries in National Deficit (2)


Afghanistan War Costs Loom Over Obama Troops Announcement

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- President Obama's planned drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan next month fulfills a promise he made more than a year ago, but also underscores the overwhelming costs of America's longest war.

While the United States grapples with debt and deficit crises, taxpayers are expected to spend more than $118 billion this year in Afghanistan for military operations, base security, reconstruction, foreign aid, embassy costs, and veterans' health care.

That's more than double the amount the Department of Homeland Security spends per year to secure the nation's borders, screen air travelers, and help Americans recover from natural disasters, among other services. Afghanistan war spending is roughly six times the annual budget of NASA.

All told, the war that began in October 2001 has cost taxpayers more than an estimated $443 billion, according to the Congressional Research Service, and the lives of more than 1,523 U.S. military personnel.

Polls show the U.S. public has become increasingly war weary, leading members of both parties -- including some Republican candidates for president -- to pressure Obama to expedite his Afghanistan plan and reprioritize the war funds.

The pace of U.S. withdrawal proposed by Obama "sounds a little slow and a little cautious, when you look at one out of every six Defense Department dollars going in support of what we're doing in Afghanistan," former Utah governor and GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman said Wednesday on Good Morning America.

"Nine years and 50 days into this conflict, the money that has been spent on both conflicts, well over $1 trillion, I think we have to say, 'What have we accomplished in Afghanistan?'" he said.

Huntsman is not alone. While 57 percent of Americans in the latest ABC News poll say the war has contributed to long-term national security, far fewer, 25 percent, say it has contributed "a great deal," which is the kind of payback many want to see, given the war's steep price tag.

The Pentagon says all of its war-related costs since Sept. 11, 2001, including in Iraq, have topped $1 trillion. Add diplomatic expenses and care for veterans and total government spending reaches an estimated $1.3 trillion.

In a Senate speech Tuesday, freshman Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia said it was time to "rebuild America, not Afghanistan," and that Obama should pursue significant troop reduction immediately.

Earlier in the week, members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors also urged Congress to end both the Afghan and Iraq wars and invest the money instead on jobs at home.

Still, while Obama is expected to announce a reduction of 5,000 to 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year, and as many as 30,000 "surge" troops next year, the shift won't dramatically reduce the burden of war on America's budget, statistics show.

The Pentagon estimates show that taxpayers could save $30 billion in the first year of a drawdown.

But the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects war costs in both Iraq and Afghanistan in the next decade could still top $496 billion -- even if troop levels fall to 45,000 from 102,000 -- by 2015.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Can Politicians Cut the Nation's $1.3 Trillion Deficit?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Though the U.S. staggers with a $1.3 trillion budget deficit and a $13.8 trillion national debt, there is little political will and public support to tackle the issue.

President Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform will release a report Wednesday that outlines bold and oft controversial steps to reduce the debt that currently amounts to more than $44,300 for each American man, woman or child.

Yet with all of the talk of deficit reduction and paying down the debt, Congress continues to pass legislation that will add to the total, and analysts say both parties are to blame.

The Medicare "doc fix," for example, which passed Congress Monday and postpones for a month a 23 percent pay cut to doctors who participate in the Medicare program, will cost U.S. taxpayers $1 billion over 10 years.

The food safety bill that sailed through the Senate Tuesday, mainly on Democratic votes, is estimated to cost about $1.4 billion over four years.

The Republicans' tax proposal, which would extend Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans, regardless of income, would add $4 trillion to the deficit in the next decade, or $2.65 trillion without counting the alternative minimum tax.  President Obama and Democrats' proposal to extend tax cuts for only lower and middle-class Americans would add to the deficit by $2.15 trillion.

"I think they (lawmakers) are taking away with one hand what they're talking about doing with the other.  In fact, they aren't doing anything at the moment to reduce the deficit," said Isabel V. Sawhill, a budget expert at the Brookings Institute.  "They're just talking about it and what they're actually doing is stuff that's going to make matters worse and dig the hole deeper."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio