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MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Today the much-awaited and much-discussed Iraq Report will be released. It’s the work of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group headed by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton. Alisa Roth looks at the possible implications for defense spending.
ALISA ROTH: The report is expected to recommend a shift in the American role in Iraq. It would move U.S. troops from combat to jobs training and supporting Iraqi troops.
The ultimate goal would be to significantly reduce the number of U.S. soldiers in Iraq by 2008.
Christopher Hellman is a military policy analyst at the Center for Arms Control and Non-proliferation. He says no matter what the panel recommends, it’ll likely end up costing U.S. taxpayers less.
CHRISTOPHER HELLMAN: If you reduce the number of U.S. troops in the field, you’ll be able to spend less money to support their operations. Additionally if you change your focus from combat operations into more training and standing up the Iraqi military and police, your operating costs will go down because that’s much less labor intensive and less wear and tear on the equipment.
How much the cost will drop depends on the scenario, though. If even a small number of U.S. troops remain in combat, Hellman says, it would still be expensive.
In any case, he says the number of private contractors in Iraq — there are as many as 100,000 by some counts — will likely stay high for awhile.
I’m Alisa Roth for Marketplace.
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