The United States has understandably focused on the tremendous human costs of the war in Iraq, yet there are other costs that must be addressed as well. Earlier this year the Center for American Progress and the Lexington Institute compiled a report examining the impact of the war in Iraq on Army equipment. This report does the same for the Marine Corps, the other service that has borne the brunt of the occupation.
Over the past three years the Marine Corps has maintained 40 percent of its ground equipment, 50 percent of its communications equipment, and 20 percent of its aviation assets in Iraq. This equipment is used at as much as nine times its planned rate, abused by a harsh environment, and depleted due to losses in combat. To maintain acceptable readiness levels, the Marines have been taking equipment from non-deployed units and drawing down Maritime Prepositioned stocks, including equipment stored in Europe, thus limiting their ability to respond to contingencies outside of Iraq.
Resetting and recovering the force will be expensive. The cost of restoring the Marines’ ground and aviation equipment to its pre-Iraq level, as of the summer of 2006, will require $1 2 billion plus an additional $5 billion for each year the Marines remain in Iraq.
Recovery will also not be easy. The Marine Corps, like the Army, must incorporate the lessons of Iraq into its future procurement plans while upgrading its forces. The Marines may prefer expeditionary operations to acting as an occupying force, but urban counter-insurgency and peacekeeping operations will more likely be the rule rather than the exception in the future.
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