The United States has now been continuously at war for more than seventeen years. It is still fighting an active war in Afghanistan, has yet to fully defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq – much less establish a state of lasting security in either country – and is playing a role in low level conflicts against extremist and terrorists in many other parts of the world.
The U.S. government, however, has never developed a convincing method of reporting on the cost of the wars, and its estimates are a confusing morass of different and conflicting Departmental, Agency, and other government reporting that leave major gaps in key areas during FY2001-FY2019.
It has never provided useful forecasts of future cost, instead providing empty "placeholder" numbers or none. It has failed to find any useful way to tie the cost estimates it does release to its level of military and civil activity in each conflict or found any way to measure the effectiveness of its expenditures or tie them to a credible strategy to achieve some form of victory.
The result is a national embarrassment and a fundamental failure by the Executive Branch and Congress to produce the transparency and public debate and review that are key elements of a responsible government and democracy.
The Burke Chair at CSIS is circulating a working draft of a report analyzing official reporting on the Cost of War since FY2001. It examines these issue in detail for the period from FY2001-FY2023, and is entitled America’s Military Spending and the Uncertain Costs of its Wars: The Need for Transparent Reporting.
Click here for the report’s working draft (111 PDF pages) on the CSIS website.