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New study overstates cost of troop surge in Iraq, Pentagon says

WASHINGTON—A report by the Congressional Budget Office "dramatically overstates both the cost and the personnel" involved in President Bush's decision to beef up U.S. forces in Iraq, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday.

The CBO reported Thursday that Bush's plan could involve as many as 48,000 troops and cost as much as $27 billion, if those forces remain in the country for a year.

But the dollar estimate assumes that the boost in forces will last through fiscal year 2009, not 2007, the defense secretary said.

Recapping testimony last month to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gates said he thought that the surge in troops would last only a few months, "rather than 18 months or two years."

"So one of the differences is in a dramatic difference in the time span of the assumption," Gates said at the Pentagon. "The second is that the estimate of the number of support forces required is dramatically higher."

He said the Pentagon expected the support troops to number 10 to 15 percent of the CBO estimate.

President Bush announced last month that he's sending 21,500 troops to shore up U.S. security efforts in Baghdad and in Anbar province in western Iraq. The administration says it will cost $5.6 billion to keep those troops in Iraq through the end of 2007. It had initially estimated that cost at $3.2 billion.

The CBO said the Bush plan had identified only combat troops, who'd require as many as 28,000 support troops—including logisticians, military police, medics, and communications and headquarters personnel—to carry out their mission for 12 months.

The CBO report outlined four scenarios, ranging from 35,000 troops staying in Iraq for as little as four months to 48,000 troops staying in the country for up to one year.

Bush's plan to reinforce the U.S. presence in Iraq has generated growing opposition on Capitol Hill, but much confusion remains over what the effort will involve.

As the CBO report pointed out, the surge will be accomplished primarily by extending the deployments of some U.S. troops already in Iraq, while others will be sent sooner than expected. According to Pentagon officials, no combat troops who weren't already scheduled to go to Iraq this year will be sent.

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Editors: Some of you might notice that the cost of the new troop deployment in Iraq cited in this story and earlier reports are different. Both are correct. Friday's figure, $27 billion, is the cost in the Congressional Budget Office's report. It's based on 20,000 additional troops in Iraq. Thursday's figure, $29 billion, is the cost of deploying and supporting the 21,500 soldiers that President Bush has ordered for Iraq.

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(c) 2007, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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