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US Army Sees $70 Billion Price Tag For 65,000 Extra Troops January 23, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Military News, US News.
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WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)–The U.S. Army estimates a new plan to expand its forces by 65,000 soldiers will cost about $70 billion between 2009 and 2013, a senior Army officer said Tuesday.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates proposed the troop increase this month, as part of a broad plan to increase the size of the U.S. military’s ground forces. Gates also said he wants to limit the length of mobilizations for the reserves and the National Guard.

Lt. Gen. Stephen Speakes, the Army’s top supply officer, said the Army expects the extra troops would be phased in gradually. Out of the $70 billion in projected costs, about $18 billion would go toward equipment for the new soldiers. The rest would cover costs like pay, health care and training.

Speakes said the Army wouldn’t try to raid the Air Force or Navy budget for the extra funds.

“We’re not into a zero-sum game in which we’re trying to take from the other services,” he said at a Defense Writers Group breakfast.

In the shorter term, the Army expects it will cost more to refit units returning from combat, given current plans to increase forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. These “reset” costs are a big drain on the Army’s budget, since equipment is wearing out far faster than expected.

Speakes said reset costs have been projected at roughly $13 billion per year for an overseas deployment of 13 brigades, or 120,000 troops. If the force in Iraq and Afghanistan increases to 15 brigades – another 10,000 or so soldiers – the Army’s annual recovery costs would be more like $15 billion, he said.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker told Congress Tuesday that these costs will continue for several years once combat has stopped. He urged Congress to approve the money quickly, since it can take up to three years to buy equipment even once it is fully funded.

“To overcome the unprecedented stress being placed on our equipment today, reset funding will be required for a minimum of two to three years beyond the duration of the current conflict,” Schoomaker said at a House Armed Services Committee hearing.

Extra reset costs come on top of the Army’s already strained budget. The service has struggled to keep up with the rising costs of combat; last year Army leaders lobbied the Pentagon to add billions of dollars to its baseline budget so the Army can equip its troops and replace aging equipment.

Schoomaker said the Army needs flexibility in how it spends the money. For example, out of about $17 billion in recently approved reset funding, about $10 billion has been designated for procurement contracts. The rest of the money will be spent on labor costs, as work is performed, he said.

By Rebecca Christie, Dow Jones Newswires

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