Chill Bill: The US Military's A/C Bill for Iraq and Afghanistan Gives Me the Shivers
The United States Military is spending $20.2 billion a year for air-conditioning the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Read that again please: $20.2 billion every year just to provide air-conditioning for our troops in these two desert countries.
How much is $20.2 billion?
Well, I live in Pennsylvania, where the eighth-largest school district in the country, here in Philadelphia, is about to lose 1300 of its 11,000 teachers--that’s 12% of the teaching staff in an already overcrowded school system--because the state’s Republican governor and legislature want to cut some $500 million in education funding from the state’s $27-billion budget. That military air-conditioning bill could not only restore those teachers by closing the $400 million budget deficit facing the Philadelphia School District. It could almost fund the entire budget of the state! In fact, it could probably fund the school budget deficit in almost all the school districts in the nation.
$20.2 billion is more than the entire budget of the state of North Carolina!
It is the same as the $20-billion shortfall expected next year in the federal Pell Grant program that provides scholarship aid to low-income students attending college.
It is about one-forth of the entire budget of the federal Department of Health and Human Services.
It is two-and-a-half times the size of the entire 50-state federal Head Start program of early childhood education.
Now I know our soldiers have it tough over there in the 120-130-degree heat in Iraq, and it’s pretty hot in Afghanistan too, at least in the valleys. But then again, very few Iraqis and even fewer Afghans have air-conditioning. Many have probably never even seen an air-conditioner. And most, if they had one, wouldn’t have any electricity to run it with. (That’s why air conditioning is so costly for the US military. Not only do they have to ship in the A/C units. They have to truck in the gas to run the generators to produce the electricity to run the A/C, at great personal risk to the drivers of the fuel trucks.)
That $20.2 billion, by the way, is also about a tenth of the total cost of the two ongoing wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I’m tempted to say something about what an incredible waste this is, and about how far we’ve come from the days when soldiers were expected to crawl through the mud, live off the land, sweat to death in the summer and freeze to death in the winter, but I think I’ll just leave you with the numbers above.
Ten years the US has been fighting in Afghanistan, and eight in Iraq, and the best we can say is that we sure can air-condition our military in tough terrain.
What I will say is that if we’re spending $20 billion to air-condition the troops (most of whom, by the way, are not out in the field fighting (those grunts probably don’t have A/C). It’s the ones my colleague, Vietnam veteran John Grant, calls the REMFs (for rear-echelon MF-ers) who get all the cooling.