Pentagon Costs Add Up in the Fight Against ISIS

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U.S. military leaders recently announced they would ask Congress for more funding to combat the terrorist organization ISIS, a reminder of how unexpected developments can make continuing efforts to restrain defense spending more difficult.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recently said the military is now spending up to $10 million a day on operations against ISIS.

But a report by the Center for Strategic Budgetary Assessments, an independent think tank, indicates the military has been spending more than that in recent weeks. It estimates the U.S. spent  $780 to $930 million on air strikes between Aug. 8 and Sept. 24.

The report also says operations against ISIS could cost from $4 billion to $7 billion a year, depending on the frequency of airstrikes and how many advisory troops are deployed.

The Pentagon is financing current operations against ISIS through the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund, which is exempt from spending caps. But Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey has said OCO funding will not be enough to train and equip the Iraqi, Kurdish and Syrian forces needed to fight ISIS on the ground.

In a constrained fiscal environment, policymakers must still ensure the military has enough funding to carry out its strategic objectives and protect the country. At the same time, elected officials should work with military leaders to ensure that this money is well spent.

External links:
Defense Secretary Hagel’s Press Conference
Cost of U.S. Campaign Against the Islamic State Likely Closing In on $1 Billion (Washington Post)
Cost of U.S.-Led war Against Isis Is at Least $780 Million and Growing (The Guardian)
Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work on Problematic Cost of Congressional Mandates

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