US Has Spent Nearly $4 Trillion On National Security Since 9/11, Yet Americans Feel Less Safe Than Ever

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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The U.S. government has spent $3.6 trillion on national security since the attacks on September 11, 2001, according to a new report, yet Americans feel less safe now than they did right after the deadly attacks.

Spending has increased drastically in the last two years, especially with a $300 billion increase occurring in 2015 alone, according to a report by Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.

The total cost for the war on terror will rise to a remarkable $4.79 trillion once the projected spending for 2017 is included, according to The Costs of War report.

Despite the trillions spent, Americans do not feel any safer. A recent poll by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs found 42 percent of Americans feel less safe now than before 9/11, a drastic increase from the 27 percent surveyed in 2014.

“Its been the case that so many other federal agencies and so many other parts of the Pentagon budget [have] grown as a result of the war, and so it has to be counted in a way that [it has not] been by the Congressional Research Service or certainly by the Pentagon,” Catherine Lutz, the co-director of the project and a professor at Brown University, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“So if you really want to see what it costs, you really do have to go into these other more distant parts of the budget. And certainly the thing that we also added, and think is very important, was that not looking forward, not looking to the decades to come, is a real mistake,” Lutz continued.

Lutz and her team included the costs associated with caring for veterans and interest payments on the increased spending — two factors the government does not consider.

“Interest costs for overseas contingency operations spending alone are projected to add more than $1 trillion to the national debt by 2023,” wrote Neta Crawford, co-director of the project and professor at Boston University, in the report. “By 2053, interest costs will be at least $7.9 trillion unless the U.S. changes the way it pays for the wars.”

Congress understandably boosted the Pentagon and other federal agencies with billions of dollars in funding after 9/11, but did not include a way to pay for it.

In past wars, the federal government engaged in a “pay as you go” system that included measures like a war tax or the selling of war bonds. This has not been the case in the global war on terrorism, so Crawford and Lutz consider Department of Defense and State Department’s Overseas Contingency Operations spending as borrowed money.

While some of the national security spending has certainly been necessary, abuse of the budget has been rampant. Expensive weapons systems programs, which Lutz noted sometimes have no practical effect on countering terrorism, have drastically inflated the defense budget. Additionally, fraud and abuse in reconstruction efforts have led to the loss of  billions of dollars, particularly in Afghanistan.

“Congress has to plan for the future cost, which will run into literally trillions if you include, as you should, the care for the veterans that were wounded there [as well as] the interest on the debt,” Lutz told TheDCNF.

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