Who Could Have Possibly Foreseen It?...
[LATE UPDATE] Pentagon Announces Today Another 15,000 Deployed Troops to be Extended to Maintain 'Surge'
By Arlen Parsa on 4/9/2007, 5:34am PT  

Guest Blogged by Arlen Parsa

When George W. Bush announced he would execute a "troop surge" to send more American soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan in January 2007, it was billed as an increase of slightly over 20,000 soldiers that would cost less than six billion dollars.

"America will change our strategy to help the Iraqis carry out their campaign to put down sectarian violence and bring security to the people of Baghdad," Bush announced in a prime-time televised address. "This will require increasing American force levels. So I've committed more than 20,000 additional American troops to Iraq."

The "surge," recognized as an escalation by many, was immediately controversial for several reasons --- not the least of which was a concern that the increase of 20,000 American soldiers might turn into a much larger US presence in Iraq, and a much more expensive one, than promised.

Three months after Bush's announcement, those fears have come to fruition.

Let's take a look at the numbers, in both troops and dollars...

THE TROOP 'SURGE' SURGE

Less than a month after Bush announced his plan to send slightly over 20,000 additional American soldiers to the middle east (the exact number advertised by the Administration was 21,500), a report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) emerged predicting that the "surge" could easily balloon to nearly 50,000 soldiers, when support personnel were taken into consideration.

In a February 1st letter [PDF] from CBO Director Peter Orszag to House Armed Services Committee Chair Ike Skelton (D-MO), Orszag wrote that "[The] CBO assumed that additional support troops would be deployed in the same proportion to combat troops that currently exists in Iraq."

"That approach would require about 28,000 support troops in addition to the 20,000 combat troops --- a total of 48,000," he said. Orszag explained that since Bush and the Pentagon had been so vague about their troop surge announcement that the CBO also devised other potential scenarios including one with less support personnel than is typical. At the time, Congressional Republicans and the White House criticized the estimate of nearly 50,000 troops as patently unrealistic.

In early April, the Defense Department announced that a separate and additional 12,000 National Guard could be headed to Iraq and Afghanistan by early next year in connection with the surge. If the Pentagon deployed the normal number of support personnel to cover the new National Guard troops, in addition to the typical number of personnel for the original 21,500 troops plus the initial 21,500 soldiers themselves, the total would reach more than 78,000 in surge-related deployments.

Moreover, the Pentagon recently announced it was sending an extra 9,000 Army troops to Iraq in order to sustain the surge. These 9,000 soldiers, who would not have been shipping out to Iraq were it not for the escalation, will be replacing normal non-surge affiliated soldiers whose tours of duty have expired. Officials say this will have the effect of keeping the overall number of American forces in Iraq well above normal levels.

Combine all those figures together including the normal numbers of support personnel, and the surge adds up to an astounding 87,000 soldiers involved in one way or another.

However, the Defense Department is not sending their normal number of support personnel along with the "surged" troops, and instead is sending a lower ratio of support personnel than ever before in the four plus years of war in Iraq.

Instead of the typical 28,000 support personnel per 20,000 troops deployed which the Congressional Budget Office says is normal, Pentagon officials have said far fewer support personnel are needed for the initial 21,500 troop boost in Iraq. In March, Pentagon officials testified before the Senate, saying that only 7,000 more support personnel maximum would be deployed to Iraq in connection with the early stages of the surge, which officials project will "peak" in May. This reflects only a third of the normal ratio of support personnel to combat troops that have been used in the past.

Assuming the Defense Department does not shortchange the surged troops even further on support personnel, there will be 44,000 soldiers associated with the escalation, not including the 9,000 Army soldiers who will soon join them.

Of those 9,000 troops, about 4,500 will be facing an accelerated deployment, almost three months earlier than Pentagon guidelines allow. Critics say these type of unexpected deployments that leave soldiers less time at home with their families degrade the quality of the military. Some of these soldiers are being sent back to Iraq for a second or even third time.

The budget associated with the escalation is a whole other can of worms.

THE BUDGET SURGE

The Department of Defense and the White House originally claimed that the escalation would cost less than $6 billion, a figure that even some Republicans have called suspect. "It's obvious the $5.6 billion is a number that's not accurate," Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH), the Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee said in early March. Democrats echoed Gregg's skepticism after Pentagon officials testified before the Committee claiming that $5.6 billion was a perfectly reasonable cost estimate for the escalation.

Only days later, the military revised its own estimate, and increased it by almost one half. Democrats like Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who sits on the Budget Committee, were furious. "A senior Defense Department official testified that the military needed only $5.6 billion to fund Mr Bush's Iraq War escalation," Menendez said, recalling testimony in a statement issued by his office.

"Yet, less than one week later - the Pentagon comes back to the Congress to say they indeed need $2 billion more than they requested. Talk about a surge. If Pentagon officials can't add or subtract - how can we expect them to win a war?"

One key point important to calculating the cost of the escalation is the actual length of the personnel buildup. The White House has resisted guessing how long the "temporary" troop surge will last, and as a result, Congress has largely been left out of the loop. When asked by the Senate Budget Committee to calculate the cost of Bush's surge, the Congressional Budget Office found itself at an impasse because it was unclear how long it might last.

To solve this problem, the CBO again produced separate sets of estimates based on different guesses of how long the surge might last. "If DoD deployed a total of 48,000 troops," Director Peter Orszag wrote in his letter to the Senate Budget Committee, "and sustained that level for four months, costs would be about $13 billion higher than for the current force levels, CBO estimates." That estimate is more than twice the original Administration estimates of cost.

A 12 month buildup might cost an extra $27 billion over normal operating costs, the CBO concluded. If the surge lasted twice that long, it would be projected to reach close to $50 billion. The Pentagon has indicated that it does not know how long Bush's surge could last, and they have opted not to include it in their funding request for 2008.

"You know, things are going to change on the ground," Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England said in Senate testimony, "So there will be, constantly, some variation in [our $5.6B cost estimate]. But that's very close."

Regardless of the accuracy of the Administration's budget or troop estimates, at least they bothered to come up with them. The same cannot be said, as The BRAD BLOG reported with some vigor in January, for an estimation of the number of casualties that will be sustained as part of the "surge."

UPDATE 4:43pm PT: This now in today from ThinkProgress:

Tours of duty for 15,000 U.S. Army troops extended.

CNN’s Barbara Starr reports, “The Pentagon today, as we speak, is reviewing a request from commanders in Iraq for the extension of the tour of duty for up to 15,000 Army troops. four combat ground brigades. One combat aviation brigade. their tours might be extended up to 120 days. Why? Because the Pentagon has to find a way to keep that so-called troop surge going.”

Guess we'll have to update our chart.