President Bush asked Congress on Monday to approve $196 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through the end of the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.
If approved, the total price tag for the Iraq war will exceed $600 billion by next October.
Annual spending for the wars will hit an all-time high in 2008. White House and Pentagon officials say part of the reason is because of the unanticipated costs associated with the so-called "surge" of additional troops.
White House Makes Its Case
On Monday, President Bush — mindful of his detractors in Congress — presented the new budget request as an all-or-nothing proposition.
"I often hear that war critics oppose my decisions but still support the troops," he said. "Well, I'll take them at their word, and this is a chance for them to show it."
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has said the U.S. is not spending enough on defense.
"The amount of money the United States is projected to spend on defense this year is actually a smaller percentage of GDP (gross domestic product) than when I left government 14 years ago following the end of the Cold War," he said in February.
And Gen. James Conway, commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, echoed that sentiment in a recent speech, saying, "Right now, we're at something less than 4 percent of the gross national product."
War Costs Every Taxpayer $4,500
But not everyone agrees.
U.S. defense spending may only account for four percent of the GDP, but in actual dollar figures, when adjusted for inflation, it is higher than it has been at any time since the World War II.
"We're spending more than the Cold War average at this point, and, in terms of the high point of the Cold War, yes, we're exceeding that," said Christopher Hellman, the military policy fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.
He noted that defense spending accounts for nearly $700 billion a year, or about one-third of the total U.S. budget.
Greg Speeter, executive director of the National Priorities Project, said total defense spending now costs the average taxpayer about $4,500 a year.
Or, to put that into perspective, it has cost the city of Washington about $1 million every day since the war began, he said.
Very soon, that will make the Iraq war more expensive than the war in Vietnam.