One soldier, one year: $850,000 and rising
A US servicemember stands a post on a hill in Afghanistan. (CNN Photo)
February 28th, 2012
05:50 PM ET

One soldier, one year: $850,000 and rising

By Larry Shaughnessy

Keeping one American service member in Afghanistan costs between $850,000 and $1.4 million a year, depending on who you ask. But one matter is clear, that cost is going up.

During a budget hearing today on Capitol Hill, Sen. Kent Conrad, D-North Dakota, asked Department of Defense leaders, "What is the cost per soldier, to maintain a soldier for a year in Afghanistan?" Under Secretary Robert Hale, the Pentagon comptroller, responded "Right now about $850,000 per soldier."

Conrad seemed shocked at the number.

"That kind of takes my breath away, when you tell me it's $850,000," Conrad said

A Pentagon spokesman later said a more accurate figure is $815,000 a year.

Regardless of which number is used Sen. Conrad would be really shocked by the estimate that the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments reached about the same issue.

"The cost per troop in Afghanistan has averaged $1.2 million per troop per year," the center's Todd Harrison wrote in an analysis of last year's Department of Defense budget.

Why the difference? Harrison said the center arrives at its figure by taking "the amount of money spent in Afghanistan for a year and dividing it up by the number of soldiers."

He believes Hale's estimate is lower because the Pentagon removes some costs, like construction, from the Afghanistan spending and divides that lower number by the number of troops.

But one thing is clear, the cost is rising. Hale said the Department of Defense figure was until recently $600,000 a year. And Harrison said the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments' estimate for 2012 is up to $1.4 million.

Harrison said there are two important factors contributing to the increase. There are fewer troops in Afghanistan than in 2011, and the latest Defense budget puts millions into war spending that in previous years were part of the department's base budget.

Hale sees another reason why it's climbing. The major component of the extra costs in Afghanistan are higher operating costs for weapons. When you're in a war you are operating a much higher tempo. "That's a good part that's probably 50% of the budget," he testified.

One thing is clear, the soldier impacts only a small percentage of that cost. A typical army sergeant with four years service makes a base pay of less than $30,000 a year.

soundoff (352 Responses)
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    October 5, 2018 at 12:53 pm | Reply
  2. Michael

    So let's pull out like Obama did in Iraq and cause another group like ISIS to take hold.

    April 5, 2017 at 5:07 pm | Reply
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    Stephen anyhow lent him one of them.
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  6. Joe Sanchez

    Its difficult to find well-informed people on this topic, but you seem like you know what youre talking about! Thanks

    July 2, 2014 at 6:39 pm | Reply
  7. In home personal training

    I would love to see a breakdown of this.I want to see where the money is being spent.This is crazy to me.

    April 2, 2014 at 8:03 am | Reply
  8. Katharyn Sadar

    In response to the story at: DearnDayna, Serving in the military is a noble cause but surely you must realize by now that fighting illegal wars is hardly a noble use of noble men and women. The US military has become a machine of death for the deceiver to use at his will, All the noble men and women (such as yourself) are just cogs in that machine to be used as a tool to further the deceivers reach of spreading death and despair. Killing innocent men, women and children is hardly the proper use of a powerful military dont you think? The deceiver has Gods children killing each other and he is very sad to see this happening. The love God has for you and I is uncomparably opposite to the hatred the deceiver has towards us. Being in the military has given you a view of the physical battlefield but are you aware of the spiritual battlefield? Yes believe it or not there is a battle for our souls. You are a fallen soul who has fell victim to the deception of the world. Your choice to be lesbian is only supported by the world because the world is of deception. You are losing this spiritual battle, at this point you are an asset for deceptive forces. The deceiver is using the popularity you brought to this story to further push his agenda to destroy mankind. You are being used as a proxy warrior for the deceiver. Come back to God repent of your sins (as us Christians do everyday) and let the Love of Jesus fill you. We Christians still love you and are sad to see a fellow human consumed by deception. Come back to your natural state and start fighting the good fight. Us Christians will be here in the trenches to risk our lives with you in this spiritual battle. There is no higher power than the power of God. Love, Your Fellow Christian. PS. "Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet." Romans 1:24-27

    November 19, 2013 at 7:25 pm | Reply
  9. Ava Ketamine

    If all of this money was used to do peace and help other poor countries, this would be paradise.

    July 19, 2013 at 10:28 pm | Reply
    • wow

      I bet you wish it was that simple you damn hippy. They would just kill us. How about you learn some things about the human brain and how there can't be ultimate peace.

      August 19, 2013 at 12:57 pm | Reply
      • wows biggest fan

        Lmao "you damn hippy"

        April 7, 2017 at 2:20 pm |
      • masmanz

        No Afghan ever came here to kill us. AlQaeda was completely dismantled in 2002, what was the point of extending the war beyond that?

        January 1, 2018 at 10:20 am |
    • TonyM

      In an idealistic world the money would be spend on the poor in peaceful endeavors. But then, in an idealistic world there would be no poor. But human nature is such that no matter what someone has, someone else wants more and that's how wars start.

      August 19, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Reply
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    April 29, 2013 at 11:19 pm | Reply
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