President Bush and his new military chiefs have been saying for nearly a month that they would "surge" an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq, in a last, grand push to quell the violence in Baghdad and in Anbar Province. But a new study by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says the real troop increase could be as high as 48,000 -- more than double the number the President initially said.That's because the combat units that President Bush wants to send into hostile areas need to be backed up by support troops, "including personnel to staff headquarters, serve as military police, and provide communications, contracting, engineering, intelligence, medical, and other services," the CBO notes.
Over the past few years , DoDs practice has been to deploy a total of about 9,500 personnel per combat brigade to the Iraq theater, including about 4,000 combat troops and about 5,500 supporting troops.DoD has not yet indicated which support units will be deployed along with the added combat forces, or how many additional troops will be involved. Army and DoD officials have indicated that it will be both possible and desirable to deploy fewer additional support units than historical practice would indicate. CBO expects that, even if the additional brigades required fewer support units than historical practice suggests, those units would still represent a significant additional number of military personnel.To reflect some of the uncertainty about the number of support troops, CBO developed its estimates on the basis of two alternative assumptions. In one scenario, CBO assumed that additional support troops would be deployed in the same proportion to combat troops that currently exists in Iraq. That approach would require about 28,000 support troops in addition to the 20,000 combat troopsa total of 48,000. CBO also presents an alternative scenario that would include a smaller number of support personnelabout 3,000 per combat brigadetotaling about 15,000 support personnel and bringing the total additional forces to about 35,000.According to the study, the costs for the "surge" would also be dramatically different than the President has said. The White House estimated a troop escalation would require about $5.6 billion in additional funding for the rest of fiscal year 2007. Of that, about $3.2 billion was supposed to go to the Army and Marines for their escalated activity.But that figure appears to have been grossly underestimated. The CBO now believes "that costs would range from $9 billion to $13 billion for a four-month deployment and from $20 billion to $27 billion for a 12-month deployment." There's a more detailed analysis of the numbers on pages 3 and 4 of the study, which was sent to House Budget Chairman John Spratt today.UPDATE 1:43 PM: Here's Spratt's reaction, in a statement just released:
An average of 170,000 military personnel has been maintained in the Iraq theater of operations, and this high deployment level has taken a toll. Last year, CBO reported that the Department of Defense had reduced the amount of dwell time for many troops from two years to one year in order to sustain troop levels. Dwell time is the time troops spend in training at bases in the United States while living with their families. CBO questioned whether such a high pace of operations was sustainable over the long term. The Presidents proposal will increase this level to above 200,000 troops, and to reach this level, the Pentagon will probably have to relax dwell time standards even more.CBOs report concludes that the cost of the Presidents plan to surge troops will be higher than previously indicated, both in dollar terms and in the burdens it places on our military.UPDATE 2:06 PM: As they say on the Internet, "WTF?" Gen. George Casey, the nominee for Army chief of staff, "told a Senate panel Thursday that improving security in Baghdad would take fewer than half as many extra troops as President Bush has chosen to commit," the AP is reporting.
Asked by Sen. John Warner, R-Va., why he had not requested the full five extra brigades that Bush is sending, Casey said, "I did not want to bring one more American soldier into Iraq than was necessary to accomplish the mission."With many in Congress opposing or skeptical of Bush's troop buildup, Casey did not say he opposed the president's decision. He said the full complement of five brigades would give U.S. commanders in Iraq additional, useful flexibility."In my mind, the other three brigades should be called forward after an assessment has been made on the ground" about whether they are needed to ensure success in Baghdad, Casey said. later.Now, Casey has long been skeptical of a troop increase. "It's a tough nut, whether or not bringing in more troops, more US troops will have a significant long term impact on the violence," he said back in October. And just the other day, Casey was arguing that any additional boots on the ground could be removed by the summer. So this feels like we're seeing the edges of an internal squabble between the White House and the Army brass. Or maybe between general and general.UPDATE 02/02/07 6:36 PM: The White House is denying the CBO report.(Big ups: JA)