WASHINGTON – The annual cost of replacing, repairing and upgrading Army equipment in Iraq and Afghanistan is expected to more than triple next year to more than $17 billion, according to Army documents obtained by the Associated Press.
From 2002 to 2006, the Army spent an average of $4 billion a year in annual equipment costs. But as the war takes a harder toll on the military, that number is projected to balloon to more than $12 billion for the federal budget year that starts next Oct. 1, the documents show.
The $17 billion also includes an additional $5 billion in equipment expenses that the Army requested in previous years but has not yet been provided.
The latest costs include the transfer of more than 1,200 2 1/2-ton trucks, nearly 1,100 Humvees and $8.8 million in other equipment from the U.S. Army to the Iraqi security forces.
Army and Marine Corps leaders are expected to testify before Congress Tuesday and outline the growing costs of the war — with estimates that it will cost between $12 billion and $13 billion a year for equipment repairs, upgrades and replacements from now on.
The Marine Corps has said in recent testimony before Congress that it would need nearly $12 billion to replace and repair all the equipment worn out or lost to combat in the past four years. So far, the Marines have received $1.6 billion toward those costs to replace and repair the equipment.
According to the Army, the $17 billion includes:
_$2.1 billion in equipment that must be replaced because of battle losses.
_About $6.5 billion for repairs.
_About $8.4 billion to rebuild or upgrade equipment.
One of the growing costs is the replacement of Humvees, which are wearing out more quickly because of the added armor they are carrying to protect soldiers from roadside bombs. The added weight is causing them to wear out faster, decreasing the life of the vehicles.
Congress has provided about $21 billion for equipment costs in emergency supplemental budget bills from 2002-06. All the war equipment expenses have been funded through those emergency bills, and not in the regular fiscal-year budgets.
Pentagon officials have estimated that such emergency bills would have to continue two years beyond the time the U.S. pulls out of Iraq in order to fully replace, repair and rebuild all of the needed equipment.
The push for additional equipment funding comes after the House last week passed a $427 billion defense spending bill for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, which includes $50 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. A separate $66 billion emergency funding bill for the two wars was approved earlier in the month.
War-related costs since 2001 are approaching half a trillion dollars.