US military is spending $400 per barrel to import fuel into Afghanistan

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DOD has reported that the Fully Burdened Cost of Fuel (FBCF) — the average cost of importing fuel into Afghanistan — is about $400. This confirms the findings of the Defense Science Board in 2008, which estimated the FBCF as “several hundred dollars per gallon”.

Fuel and water are currently transported on a dangerous route, requiring that US troops and local troops provide protection. A high number of US casualties in Afghanistan result from efforts to protect these convoys. The Army calculated in a 2009 study that 1 troop fatality occurs for every 24 fuel resupply convoys. In FY 2007, the military required 897 fuel convoys (with an average of 16 supply trucks) to deliver 2.1 million barrels of fuel. (In Iraq, during 2007, the US required 5133 fuel convoys to deliver about 12 million barrels). In the current year, the number and expense of convoys in Afghanistan has risen.

Army suicides hit record number in June 2010

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The number of Army suicides in June 2010 was the highest number in a single month since the Vietnam era.  Thirty-two troops are believed to have committed suicide.  Of those, 21 were on active duty, seven were serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, and eleven were not on active-duty.  See: the Department of Defense said.

Last year, a record-breaking 245 soldiers committed suicide. The Army seems on track to surpass that number this year, as 145 soldiers have taken their lives in the first half of 2010.  These statistics do not include the number of veterans who end their own lives. That figure surged 26 percent from 2005 to 2007, according to the Veterans Affairs Department.

New PTSD regulations help veterans suffering from PTSD to claim benefits more easily — will cost billions

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The Department of Veterans Affairs has finally made the sensible decision to simplify the eligibility for veterans to obtain disability compensation benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  This is a move that we have championed for the past three years, since the medical community has confirmed that returning veterans are suffering from an “epidemic” of PTSD.  We applaud the VA for making this change.

The previous VA system had forced veterans to prove that their PTSD was triggered by  a specific traumatic incident during service, which was often difficult or impossible given the chaos that typically surrounds an IED explosion or other traumatic episode.  Additionally, one-third of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have served multiple deployments and their PTSD is cumulative and cannot be easily traced to a specific incident.  The immediate effect of this change will enable veterans to claim benefits more quickly and easily and with less delay.

The change will accelerate the payment of benefits to hundreds of thousands of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, and it will enable tens of thousands more, who were previously ineligible to receive benefits (because they couldn’t pinpoint the source of their PTSD)  to receive benefits.  The medical community estimates that 15-20% of veterans are suffering from PTSD; therefore this cohort will now receive a monthly cash benefit.   The long-term cost of this was already anticipated in our cost estimates, as we had expected that all veterans with PTSD would eventually receive compensation.  However, this change will accelerate the uptake of benefits and should therefore add at least $10 billion to the long-term cost of veterans disability compensation.

See Q&A on this issue here.

Re-reading Senator Byrd’s speech on the Iraq War

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On February 12, 2003  Senator Robert C. Byrd delivered the first in a series of poignant speeches against the Iraq War.  He warned that we were about to embark on a moral and financial catastrophe.  As the Senator now lies in state,  we pay tribute to his words.

To contemplate war is to think about the most horrible of human experiences. On this February day, as this nation stands at the brink of battle, every American on some level must be contemplating the horrors of war.

Yet, this Chamber is, for the most part, silent — ominously, dreadfully silent. There is no debate, no discussion, no attempt to lay out for the nation the pros and cons of this particular war. There is nothing.

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