- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 17, 2003

The cost of the war in Iraq, $20 billion to date, has been far less than many pre-war estimates, but about the amount predicted by the Congressional Budget Office if victory was swift.
President Bush was criticized during the buildup to Operation Iraqi Freedom for not giving Congress an estimate of how much the war would cost. With the bulk of the fighting now over, the Pentagon announced yesterday that the tab had reached $20 billion.
Meanwhile, Mr. Bush yesterday signed a $79 billion supplemental spending bill to cover the first six months of operations in Iraq. That included $9 billion in aid to reward Middle Eastern allies, $3.5 billion in assistance to U.S. airlines, $4 billion for homeland security measures and $142 million for a smallpox vaccination program.
At a news conference yesterday, Dov Zakheim, the Pentagon's comptroller, said military operations in Iraq have cost about $10 billion, personnel costs have been about $6 billion and the cost of munitions has been more than $3 billion. He estimated the military would spend another $10 billion through September to bring some troops home and keep the peace in Iraq.
The CBO released a report in September that estimated the cost of the war, including the military buildup and one month of fighting, would be between $15 billion and 20 billion. That price tag, however, is considerably smaller than estimates produced by various entities before the shooting started.
In September, the House Budget Committee's Democratic staff produced a report estimating that "the initial military operation alone" would cost between $48 billion and $93 billion with the cost skyrocketing if the war lasted longer than two months and allied forces encountered fierce resistance.
At the time, Rep. John M. Spratt Jr., South Carolina Democrat and ranking member of the House Budget Committee, said the estimate gave credence to an estimation by White House chief economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey that the war would cost between $100 billion and $200 billion. The high estimate also was used to argue against Mr. Bush's $726 billion tax-cut proposal.
Mr. Spratt explained yesterday that the higher Democratic estimate included financing the deficit spending that was necessary to fight in Iraq. The cost of the occupation of Iraq, he said, likely will fall into the CBO estimate of between $1 billion and $4 billion a month, but unexpected developments in the country could push that number higher.
"We didn't anticipate the looting of the museum and the library," Mr. Spratt said. "That's a good example that there are simply things that we haven't thought of yet as we try to bring order and move to some kind of transitional government."
William D. Nordhaus, a researcher at Yale University, produced a widely distributed report in November that put the "best-case scenario" price tag of liberating Iraq at $50 billion, with difficulties in battle putting the cost at $121 billion.
Steven M. Kosiak, an analyst for the nonpartisan Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, estimated that the war would cost between $18 billion and $85 billion. His best-case scenario was almost right on the mark.
"These weren't predictions," Mr. Kosiak said. "It was a very broad range … but I think it was useful."
The price of liberating Baghdad is less than the $22.1 billion in "pork-barrel spending" in the 2003 budget identified last week by Citizens Against Government Waste.
"Clearly, Congress made no effort to find money to pay for the war in Iraq by reducing spending in other areas," said Tom Schatz, president of CAGW. "That is unlike both World War II and the Korean War, in which Congress reduced spending 37 percent during World War II and 25 percent during the Korean War."

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