- The Washington Times - Monday, February 19, 2007

The day after President Bush announced his decision to send an additional 17,500 combat troops into Baghdad and 4,000 Marines into Anbar province, Defense Secretary Robert Gates provided the details of plans to increase the permanent size of the Army and the Marine Corps by a cumulative 92,000 troops.

Mr. Gates would make permanent the recently implemented “temporary” increases of 30,000 soldiers and 5,000 Marines. That would establish a present active-duty base of 512,400 Army troops and 180,000 Marines. Over the next several years, in annual increments of 7,000 soldiers and 5,000 Marines, the two services would increase their strengths by another 35,000 (Army) and 22,000 (Marine Corps). That would bring the permanent Army to 547,000 troops and the permanent Marine Corps to 202,000 Marines. These goals should be attained by 2012. How much will it cost?

Lt. Gen. Stephen Speakes, a deputy chief of staff, estimates it would cost the Army $70 billion over five years to reach its goal. That sum would pay for equipment and weapons ($18 billion) and the rest for pay and health benefits.

Gen. Speakes’s estimate is in line with the estimates for both the Army and the Marine Corps as projected by Steven Kosiak, a military budget analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), an independent, nonpartisan policy research institute. In an interview, he reckoned that achieving the permanent Army and Marine Corps forces envisioned by Mr. Gates “would add roughly a total of $100 billion” in defense expenditures over the next five or six years. As a “very rough” approximation, Mr. Kosiak says that “about $75 to $80 billion of this [$100 billion] total would be for operations and support activities (especially personnel compensation) but also operations and maintenance activities,” including facilities management and equipment maintenance and repair. The balance of “$20 to $25 billion would be for the weapons and other equipment needed to arm and equip these forces,” Mr. Kosiak estimated. Once all 92,000 troops become part of the permanent forces, Mr. Kosiak projects that “average annual spending would be $15 to $20 billion more than it otherwise would be [in order] to pay the long-term operations-and-support and weapons-procurement costs associated with these forces.”

In testimony on Capitol Hill, Mr. Gates reminded that “five times over the past 90 years the United States has either slashed defense spending or disarmed outright.” Each time America paid the consequences. “The costs of defending the nation, undoubtedly, are high,” Mr. Gates says. “The only thing costlier, ultimately, would be to fail to commit the resources necessary to defend our interests around the world and to fail to prepare for the inevitable threats of the future.”

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