How Much Does a U.S. War Cost? Ask Again in a Hundred Years

Thursday, March 21, 2013
Civil War soldiers (photos: Library of Congress)

Going to war is a century-long commitment in terms of financial cost.


A review of federal payment records by the Associated Press revealed that the U.S. government is still paying for wars that took place not only in the 20th century, but in the 19th century as well.


Among the conflicts still draining the U.S. treasury are the Civil War (two children of long-dead veterans receive $876 a year each), the Spanish-American War of 1898 (ten benefit recipients), World War I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the two Iraq campaigns and the Afghanistan conflict.


In total, these wars are costing the government $40 billion a year to compensate veterans and survivors. World War I still costs taxpayers $20 million a year, World War II $5 billion and the Korean War $2.8 billion. The total cost of the Vietnam War, estimated to be more than $1 trillion in current dollars, includes $270 billion paid out in benefits.


Considering that compensation for World War II veterans and their families did not even peak until 46 years after the war ended, it would not be surprising if, in the words of Mike Baker of the Associated Press, “the U.S. government will be paying for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for the next century as service members and their families grapple with the sacrifices of combat.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky


To Learn More:

Costs of US Wars Linger for Over 100 Years (by Mike Baker, Associated Press)

Costs of Major U.S. Wars (by Stephen Daggett, Congressional Research Service) (pdf)

Cost of War (National Priorities Project)

Cost of War to American Taxpayers? Don’t Ask (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

Modern Wars: Fewer Soldiers, More Money (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

War Costs Americans More Than All State Governments Combined: Sherwood Ross (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


h.m. sutton 11 years ago
If we ever get around to giving ethical support to all the wounded from the current messes, the cost is going to go up a whole lot more! Now let's see how ethical we will be..........

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