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Wars Cost $15 Billion a Month, GOP Senator Says

In a floor speech, Sen. Ted Stevens gave a higher figure for war costs than that of the administration.
In a floor speech, Sen. Ted Stevens gave a higher figure for war costs than that of the administration. (Lauren Victoria Burke - AP)
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The Pentagon has anticipated rising war costs before. In January, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon R. England told a House Budget Committee hearing that, nearly four years into the war, the Pentagon's war costs were rising because it had to replace big-ticket items such as helicopters, airplanes and armored vehicles, which were wearing out or were lost in combat. "We have a backlog and are seeing an increase," England told the panel.

At that time, 11 months ago, Pentagon spokesmen said the monthly costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007 would be $9.7 billion -- $2 billion less than their most recent estimate.

One relatively new cost is the $300 monthly payments to almost all Iraqis recruited as part of the "Concerned Local Citizens" (CLC) program, which arms neighborhood groups to provide local security. The latest quarterly Iraq report by the Pentagon puts the program total at 69,000 people.

Since more than 80 percent of the CLC participants are Sunni, the Shiite-led government has hesitated to integrate them into the police force. That means that the United States will need to continue paying them until the Iraqi government "assumes full responsibility for the program," according to the Pentagon report.

Much of the CLC money is coming out of the Commanders Emergency Response Program, which until now has been used mainly for small local assistance or development projects, such as school rebuilding, roads or sanitary systems. The omnibus spending package includes $500 million in these funds.

Another category Stevens identified in the spending bill was $587 million to reset pre-positioned stocks of military equipment taken from U.S. facilities around the world to support Iraq and Afghanistan. Replenishing such stocks, Stevens said, "enhances our nation's ability to respond to contingencies," noting that "we have forces in 141 different places."

Some of the bill's spending figures that Stevens described represent what the administration sought for the full 2008 fiscal year. For example, he listed "$4.3 billion for the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Fund, which will help our troops detect and defeat the number one killer of our troops in Iraq." That is only slightly less than the figure the administration sought for the full year.

Another category that appears to have been fully funded is the military intelligence program. The administration requested $3.7 billion for the full year, and Stevens said there is "$3.7 billion to continue to enhance our intelligence activities in the theater."

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