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Cost of the war

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MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: How much is America paying for the war in Iraq? The Senate is expected to vote on the defense appropriations bill today. Right now the cost is $468.4 billion. Both the Senate and House versions of the bill include another $50 billion in emergency funding. The Senate added $13 billion on top of that in new emergency spending for military equipment. All these figures make you wonder what the bottom line is in the war on terror. Marketplace’s Hillary Wicai takes a look.

: The Congressional Research Service estimates Congress has appropriated about $440 billion so far for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the Congressional Budget Office says it’s $433 billion. The Government Accountability Office counted $3 billion less than that. And the Department of Defense comes in with the lowest total – about $417 billion.

Steven Koziak at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment says the truth is in there somewhere.

STEVEN KOZIAK:“If you’re going to make the right kinds of policy choices, obviously you need to know what the costs and benefits of those policy choices are.”

Why the more than $20 billion difference between the four conclusions? For starters, there’s some debate over what to count. But Winslow Wheeler with the Center for Defense Information says it’s even more problematic than that.

WINSLOW WHEELER:“Both the Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Research Service found $7 billion that DOD “lost oversight of.” In other words, the money’s gone, but nobody has any clue what happened to it.”

Republican Congressman Chris Shays wrote to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees pointing out the discrepancies in the war cost reports.

He hasn’t heard back.

In Washington, I’m Hillary Wicai for Marketplace.

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