Thursday, September 18, 2008

The price tag and the cost

It's all very nice that Harper has "given his blessing" to the release of a report by Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page on the monetary cost of the Canadian military mission to Afghanistan. In fact, Harper was cornered and any objection to its release would have been viewed as an attempt to hide something far worse than his projected "under $8 billion".

David Perry of Dalhousie University's Centre for Foreign Policy Studies has already accumulated data and produced a study which will soon be released. He pegs the monetary cost at over $22 billion as reported in The Ottawa Citizen.
The Afghan war is going to end up costing the Defence Department more than $22 billion, in actual money spent on the mission and future payments to rebuild equipment and provide long-term care for veterans, a military conference heard yesterday.
This is strictly the military price tag and does not include other aid, development and direct reconstruction expenses. Cutting through a lot of detail, the money breaks down like this:
$7 billion for the cost of the war so far, including everything from ammunition and fuel to salaries.

$11 billion is the estimated bill for Veterans Affairs and DND for long-term care of veterans and related benefits.

$2 billion for the purchase of mission-specific equipment.

$2 billion for refurbishing the military's armoured personnel carrier fleet.

$405 million for repair and overhaul costs.

There was a portion of the Citizen article, quoting Perry, which jumped out and dealt with the level of transparency and the difference between the Liberal government which initially funded the Afghanistan mission and the Harper Conservatives who took it over and then started hiding numbers. Red Tory noticed the same thing, (and he had it posted before I did), so I'll send you there to read the line which tells a huge story.

There is something else which needs to be brought into the light and that is the comment by retired Commodore Eric Lerhe. (My emphasis)

"This is an important work and bang on with the numbers."
Understand that at a gathering of this type the participants are normally practical, realistic people with a tendency to want to improve military and naval contributions by studying and comparing past and present events. When they speak they do so without a view to political ideology and more to filling in the gaps they see in whatever-the-government-of-the-day is missing in terms of defence policy and implementation. Grinding one's own axe will attract opposition from other participants so presentations must be accurate and realistic. Lerhe's statement is based on accepted knowledge and a practical approach.

The cost of the Afghanistan mission is a different thing. It's more than just dollars. It's 98 dead Canadians, shattered families and permanently maimed soldiers. The Enlightened Savage details a major portion of that.

Hat tip Canajun

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