Pentagon War Cost Estimates Unreliable
By Sandra I. Erwin
Congress has for years been fighting the Pentagon over war costs. A major point of contention has been the Defense Department’s insistence that war expenses for Iraq and Afghanistan operations be approved outside the regular budget process. These so-called emergency supplementals have increased from $14 billion for fiscal year 2002 to $189 billion for 2008.
Critics question why, six years into the wars, the Pentagon refuses to estimate costs in the regular budget. The answer may be that the Pentagon can’t be sure its estimates are accurate because it lacks an integrated accounting system to gauge the cost of operations, says the Government Accountability Office. The Defense Department requires military agencies to use a 10-year-old accounting system called the Contingency Operations Support Tool to develop cost estimates for combat deployments. But GAO says that system was designed for smaller contingency operations, such as peacekeeping and disaster relief, not necessarily for large-scale wars such as Iraq and Afghanistan.