The US military's air conditioning bill for deployed troops allegedly tops $20 billion

A former Pentagon official says the U.S. spends $20.2 billion a year on air conditioning for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan – the same amount of money it would take to train, fund, and equip Afghan security forces for a full five years.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Russell Dutcher, 455th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron HVAC technician, repairs an air conditioning unit June 30, 2015, at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. Dutcher, who is part of the 1000s of Hands project, is responsible for responding to all work orders dealing with AC problems as well as keeping Bagram’s mission equipment such as computers and servers cool. (U.S. Air Force photo By Senior Airman Cierra Presentado/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Russell Dutcher, 455th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron HVAC technician, repairs an air conditioning unit June 30, 2015, at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.  (U.S. Air Force photo By Senior Airman Cierra Presentado)

To put it in perspective, that $20 billion is also the cost of a new Trump border wall every year, the price tag for supporting fledgling democracies in North Africa for five years, and the amount BP will pay in its settlement for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.


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Retired Brig. Gen. Steven Anderson was the head of logistics for Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq. He told NPR’s All Things Considered that everything required to get A/C to the troops – escorts, transportation, medevac support … everything – tops out at $20 billion.

The Pentagon has denied his claims.

The $20 billion air conditioning bill estimate includes the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, a number that has steadily risen with every passing year. By 2014, the Afghan War cost as much as $2.1 million dollars for every soldier deployed there. Some experts say even the U.S. government doesn’t know for sure where all the money is going.

Airmen from the 27th Special Operations Communications, Contracting and Comptroller Squadrons helped build up an exercise area, including fully functioning tents and offices, June 14, 2016, at the Melrose Air Force Range, N.M. The week-long exercise is used to simulate forward operating conditions during deployment to better prepare Air Commandos for down range duty. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Eboni Reams)

Airmen from the 27th Special Operations Communications, Contracting and Comptroller Squadrons helped build up an exercise area, including fully functioning tents and offices. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Eboni Reams)

In 2013, Harvard economist Linda Bilmes calculated what she calls the “true cost” of the wars, counting “long-term medical care and disability compensation for service members, veterans and families, military replenishment and social and economic costs.”

Bilmes, who’s the former CFO of the Department of Commerce, predicted that the final bill for the wars will be as much as $6 trillion. Brown University estimates the cost to be upwards of $7 trillion.