Iraq pullout will be costly

The Obama budget relies on cost savings from pulling out of Iraq.  The OMB director, Peter Orszag, says:

“The president is committed to getting — to winding down the war.  That’s going to save money.  It’s pretty clear,” Orszag said.

and:

The President is committed to responsibly winding the war down. I don’t do foreign policy, but I can tell you this: ending wars saves money – and so the Administration’s budget includes savings from ramping down overseas military operations over time.

Orszag cites cost-savings in defense starting in 1991, but those cost-savings reflected not just the end of Operation Desert Storm, but a general drawdown in military spending at the end of the Cold War (the “peace dividend”).

In fact, it turns out that pulling out of Iraq will not save any money at all in the short run.  The GAO says that the process of withdrawing from Iraq will cost a “significant” amount for several years:

The removal of about 140,000 U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011 will be a “massive and expensive effort” that is likely to increase rather than lower Iraq-related expenditures during the withdrawal and for several years after its completion, government investigators said in a report released yesterday.

“Although reducing troops would appear to lower costs,” the Government Accountability Office said, withdrawals from previous conflicts have shown that costs more often rise in the near term. The price of equipment repairs and replacements, along with closing or turning over 283 U.S. military installations in Iraq, “will likely be significant,” the GAO reported.

(Via Hot Air.)

Moreover, the GAO also says that the some of the necessary closings will take longer than estimated.  For example, the closing of Balad Air Base needs to begin immediately to keep to the president’s timeline.

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