Hiding in the war budget: billions for weapons upgrades

Sustaining combat operations in Afghanistan costs billions of dollars each year. The costs of other operations associated with warfighting have driven the war budget even higher.

Take this small piece of the Afghanistan drawdown, for example. Over the next couple of years, the U.S. Marine Corps will ship tens of thousands of weapons, vehicles, and pieces of gear back from Afghanistan. The costs of transporting and repairing that equipment is an estimated $3.2 billion.

Bringing home and refurbishing or replacing equipment used in Afghanistan, a process known as “reset,” has been factored into the war budget for years. In fiscal year 2012 the Pentagon’s war budget included $13 billion for equipment reset. The request for 2013 is $9.3 billion.

The billions of dollars allocated for funding the reset have allowed the military to do much than transport equipment back from Afghanistan and patch it up.

In fact, according to analysis from the Stimson Center, war funding “significantly enhanced” funding available for weapons procurement, accounting for over $230 billion, or 22 percent of procurement funding from 2001 to 2010.

“Over the last decade, we spent roughly $1 trillion on defense procurement and the military services used that funding, including that provided in the supplemental war funding, to modernize their forces,” the Stimson report concludes.

How much of the war funds labeled “reset” actually go towards refurbishing equipment used for the war? Less than 60 percent, according to a 2007 report by the Congressional Budget Office.

“More than 40 percent of the requested funds have been designated for activities other than replacing lost equipment or repairing returned systems,” the CBO report reads. “Those activities include upgrading systems to make them more capable and buying new equipment to eliminate shortfalls in the Army’s inventories, some of which are long-standing.”

The war budget may have been a useful loophole for the Pentagon, looking to upgrade its weapons systems, but the resulting expansion of war costs has had serious repercussions for the U.S. economy.

According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, the costs of the wars are a driving factor of projected budget deficits over the next ten years.

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