How Much Will the ISIS Fight Cost?

The Pentagon estimates that it is spending up to $10 million per day in Iraq and Syria.

ARABIAN GULF (Sept. 23, 2014) An F/A-18E Super Hornet attached to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 31 and an F/A-18F Super Hornet attached to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 213 prepare to launch from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) to conduct strike missions against ISIL targets. George H.W. Bush is supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.
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Jordain Carney
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Jordain Carney
Sept. 26, 2014, 10:55 a.m.

The United States is spend­ing between $7 mil­lion and $10 mil­lion each day in the battle against IS­IS, and the Pentagon said Fri­day it needs more money from Con­gress.

“We’re gen­er­ally spend­ing roughly, since this ef­fort star­ted, $7 mil­lion to $10 mil­lion a day. That’s be­ing fun­ded out of OCO, over­seas con­tin­gency op­er­a­tions,” De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel said at a Fri­day press con­fer­ence. Com­monly re­ferred to as war funds, the money isn’t sub­ject to con­gres­sion­al budget caps.

The Pentagon es­tim­ated in late Au­gust that it was spend­ing $7.5 mil­lion a day in Ir­aq, where it has con­duc­ted more than 200 air­strikes. Since Monday, the U.S. and its al­lies have launched more than 40 strikes against tar­gets in Syr­ia.

Asked Thursday how much the U.S. was spend­ing, Rear Adm. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokes­man, said the de­part­ment is still work­ing to cal­cu­late of­fi­cial costs. He ad­ded that he “wouldn’t be sur­prised if the an­swer that we come back with once we do the pen­cil work is dif­fer­ent” than any es­tim­ates.

De­fense De­part­ment of­fi­cials are also work­ing to pro­ject what the long-term costs will be for the IS­IS fight, which is ex­pec­ted to take years.

Whatever the of­fi­cial budget ends up be­ing, Hagel and Gen. Mar­tin De­mp­sey, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said they’ll have to go back to Con­gress to ask for more money.

“We’re work­ing now with ap­pro­pri­ate com­mit­tees on how we go for­ward with au­thor­iz­a­tions and fund­ing,” Hagel said.

Con­gress isn’t ex­pec­ted back in Wash­ing­ton un­til after the midterm elec­tions in Novem­ber. Law­makers from both parties have sug­ges­ted that the on­go­ing con­flict could provide the needed push to undo se­quest­ra­tion.

De­mp­sey re­jec­ted the no­tion that OCO should be able to cov­er anti-IS­IS op­er­a­tions. He tied the fund­ing of the IS­IS op­er­a­tion to the lar­ger fin­an­cial crunch the de­part­ment is fa­cing as it pre­pares its fisc­al 2016 budget.

Without ac­tion from Con­gress, the budget caps, known as se­quest­ra­tion, would re­turn in Oc­to­ber 2015, the start of the 2016 fisc­al year. Un­der Pres­id­ent Obama’s five-year budget, the Pentagon pro­jects that it will need more than $535 bil­lion in fisc­al 2016. But un­der the budget caps, the Pentagon is ex­pec­ted to re­ceive less than $500 bil­lion, leav­ing a $35 bil­lion budget gap.

“If you are ask­ing me do I as­sess right now as we go in­to the fall re­view for ‘16 that we’re go­ing to have budget prob­lems? Yes,” De­mp­sey said. “… OCO is gas money. The baseline budget is what trains and equips and or­gan­izes a force.”

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