In a study released Thursday, Harvard public policy Professor Linda J. Bilmes said the United States has already spent nearly $2 trillion for the military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq -- just a fraction of the ultimate cost, The Washington Post reported. The largest ongoing expense will be providing medical care and disability benefits to veterans of the two conflicts, she said.
Historically, medical and disability expenses "come due many decades later," the report said, noting that the peak disbursement of disability payments for troops in the last century came decades after the wars ended.
"Payments to Vietnam and first Gulf War veterans are still climbing," Bilmes said.
"As a consequence of these wartime spending choices, the United States will face constraints in funding investments in personnel and diplomacy, research and development and new military initiatives," Bilmes' report said. "The legacy of decisions taken during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will dominate future federal budgets for decades to come."
Bilmes' estimate includes a higher range than a study on the same issue by Brown University's Eisenhower Research Project, which placed the cost at about $4 trillion, the Post said.
Both estimates were much higher than U.S. officials projected they would spend when they planned to go to war in Iraq, the Post said. One senior White House official, Stephen Friedman, left government in 2002 after angering colleagues by estimating the Iraq war could cost as much as $200 billion.