Support Needs Could Double 'Surge' Forces

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
Boston Globe
February 2, 2007
Pg. 1

Report pegs cost at up to $27b
By Bryan Bender, Globe Staff
WASHINGTON -- President Bush's plan to send 21,500 more combat troops to Iraq might require as many as 28,000 additional troops to provide critical support during the deployment, making the "surge" in US military forces far larger than previously predicted, a government assessment concluded yesterday.
The assessment from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the addition of almost 50,000 more troops could cost up to $27 billion to sustain over the next year -- depending on the size of the force and duration of the deployment. That would be more than three times the largest estimate of the troop expansion's cost provided by the Bush administration.
The report arrived as the Army general who just relinquished the top command in Iraq told a Senate panel that he had recommended that less than half of the 21,500 combat troops be added.
"I did not want to bring one more American soldier into Iraq than was necessary to accomplish the mission," said Army General George Casey , who has been nominated to serve as the Army chief of staff, explaining to the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday why he recommended that the administration send only two additional brigades rather than the five ordered by Bush.
Bush announced last month that he was dispatching the additional Army and Marine Corps personnel and said it would cost no more than $7 billion this year.
But the Congressional Budget Office's report, the first independent government assessment of what the increase might cost, concluded yesterday that the US commitment is likely to be substantially larger than previously anticipated.
According to the Pentagon's current ratio of combat-to-support personnel in Iraq, the surge would require up to 28,000 additional troops to provide security, fuel, food, transportation, and other necessities to support the additional combat troops -- bringing the total troop increase to 48,000 troops, the CBO concluded. If a smaller proportion were used, as the Pentagon has suggested, the surge would require about 15,000 support personnel, increasing the surge to about 35,000 troops, it said.
"Even if the additional brigades required fewer support units than historical practice suggests, those units would still represent a significant additional number of military personnel," said the five-page memorandum by CBO director Peter R. Orszag that was requested by three leading House Democrats.
The House and Senate are considering several nonbinding resolutions opposing the president's "surge" plan, which the Bush administration says will help Iraqi security forces clamp down on rising sectarian violence.
When the force increase was announced, the Pentagon acknowledged in a press release that the combat troops would require some level of support, to be determined at a later date. It insisted yesterday, however, that the CBO report was speculative and probably off the mark.
"They might be right," acknowledged Bryan Whitman , a Defense Department spokesman. " It is quite possible there will be support forces that goes beyond the 21,500. But it won't be 28,000."
Whitman added that commanders are assessing how many support personnel are needed as the additional 21,500 combat forces flow into Iraq between now and May. Their assessments will include determining whether support troops already in the country can pick up some of the responsibility or whether private contractors might be able to reduce the need for military support personnel, he said.
Pentagon officials have said they do not know how long the spike in forces in Iraq will last. But for the purposes of the assessment, the CBO considered two scenarios: a four-month expansion and a one-year expansion.
"The CBO estimates that costs would range from $9 billion to $13 billion for a four-month deployment and from $20 billion to $27 billion for a 12-month deployment, depending upon the total number of troops deployed and including additional costs that would be incurred during the build-up and ramp-down periods," the CBO memo stated.
By comparison, the CBO estimated, the cost of maintaining the current force of about 130,000 in Iraq totaled about $89 billion in 2006.
Leading members of Congress expressed dismay yesterday at both the cost of the increase and indications that the overall size of the new troop commitment will be more substantial than originally thought.
"What the CBO found concerns me," Representative Ike Skelton , a Missouri Democrat and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. "The cost of the troop increase could be significantly higher than what the administration has been saying."
"Even more surprising," Skelton added, "is that CBO's estimates indicate a significant number of support troops, between 15,000 and 28,000, will have to be deployed to support the additional five combat brigades deploying under the president's plan."
Representative Martin T. Meehan , a Democrat of Lowell who chairs a subcommittee on oversight and investigations looking into the handling of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, added that the report underscored the need for robust congressional oversight of the administration's Iraq strategy.
Debate is set to begin in the Senate next week on a nonbinding resolution that, if passed, would put Congress on record in opposition to the troop escalation. Democratic leaders say they are growing confident that they'll be able to attract the 60 votes needed to break a Republican-led filibuster, since key GOP senators -- including John W. Warner of Virginia and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska -- are on board.
But some liberal Democrats, including Senators Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut and Russell Feingold of Wisconsin, say they will oppose the resolution because it doesn't go far enough in insisting that the president change course.
That leaves the situation fluid going into next week. House leaders, meanwhile, are awaiting Senate action before moving on a resolution.
The growing skepticism of the Iraq strategy was on display in Casey's confirmation hearing yesterday. The four-star general forcefully defended his tenure in Iraq in the face of some tough criticism from Senator John McCain , Republican of Arizona and a chief supporter of Bush.
McCain told Casey that "While I do not in any way question your honor, patriotism, or service to your country, I do question some of the decisions you've made in the past two and a half years."
McCain added: "We had a failed policy, and we are not winning."
Casey, however, insisted to McCain that "I do not agree we have a failed policy. I believe the president's new strategy will enhance the policy that we do have."
Rick Klein of the Globe staff contributed to this report.