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Cost balloons when 'surge' support troops are counted

Story Highlights

• Cost could go as high as $27 billion, Congressional Budget Office says
• White House has estimated cost of troop increase at $5.6 billion
• Pentagon mentions only combat troops, budget office says
• 15,000 to 28,000 support troops needed, CBO report states
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A report from the Congressional Budget Office says President Bush's plan for a troop increase in Iraq could cost up to $27 billion for a 12-month deployment.

The plan could mean sending thousands of support troops in addition to the 20,000-plus combat troops the Defense Department has set for deployment.

The numbers come in a letter to Rep. John Spratt, chairman of the House Budget Committee, in response to a request from Spratt's office. (Watch anti-surge Senate resolution draw fire from both sides Video)

"CBO's report concludes that the cost of the president's plan to 'surge' troops will be higher than previously indicated, both in dollar terms and in the burdens it places on our military," Spratt, D-South Carolina, said in a written statement.

The report notes that the Defense Department has identified only combat troops for deployment in the increase but says, "U.S. military operations also require substantial support forces, including personnel to staff headquarters, serve as military police and provide communications, contracting, engineering, intelligence, medical and other services."

The report notes the Defense Department expects to use fewer support troops than in the past.

It estimates that under past proportions, 28,000 support troops would be added to the 20,000 combat troops. But it revises that figure to 15,000 support troops for a new deployment.

That would bring the total number of forces being added in Iraq to between 35,000 and 48,000 troops, the report said.

The report estimates that a four-month deployment of the additional troops -- both combat and support -- could cost $9 billion to $13 billion and a 12-month deployment could cost $20 billion to $27 billion.

The White House estimated that the troop increase would cost $5.6 billion.

"What the CBO found concerns me," said Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Missouri, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. "The cost of the troop increase could be significantly higher than what the administration has been saying in the press."

Rep. Marty Meehan, D-Massachusetts, chairman of the Armed Services subcommittee on oversight and investigations, said the administration was being "irresponsible" in its estimates.

"The CBO report only confirms what we already know: The president has continually tried to hide the true costs of this war, both in terms of money spent and lives affected," Meehan said.

"This Democratic Congress and the House Armed Services Committee will not let the president get away with saying whatever he wants without checking his facts anymore."

The report throws into doubt how much the extra troops will cost.




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