By Nicholas Haberling and Lexor Adams
“You fought in the Clone Wars?” – Luke Skywalker
A single line designed to provide backstory for Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker’s friendship. If it had been cut from the script it likely wouldn’t have had any impact on the quality of Star Wars Episode IV. However, little did audiences know that this “Clone War,” mentioned only once in the Original Trilogy, would be the foundation of a Prequel Trilogy over twenty years later. Starting with Episode II: Attack of the Clones we were introduced to an army unlike any the galaxy had ever seen, developed in secret to save the Republic in the upcoming Separatist crisis. In The Clone Wars TV series we learn more about this army of one before their eventual betrayal of the Jedi Order in Revenge of the Sith. So with that said, how much did the Grand Army of the Republic cost and would have it been possible to have developed such a force in secret with such large expenditures?
How Many Clones?
“200,000 units are ready with a million more well on the way.” - Lama Su, Prime Minister of Kamino.
This line from Attack of the Clones has been the source of much debate. Does this mean the entirety of the clone military is 1.2 million strong? Are these just the soldiers equipped for combat within the week? What does a “unit” mean? The Star Wars films and television series don’t provide any concrete answers to these questions. Instead we are left to our own devices and common sense.
First, we have to consider the scale of a galactic conflict. If we are to assume “unit” means an individual soldier then the Grand Army of the Republic is roughly the size of the United States Military. While I have the utmost confidence in our military, we have enough trouble with power projection across a single planet, much less engaging in pitched combat with trillions of battle droids across countless star systems. Furthermore the casualties we see in the films, TV series and novels would suggest this 1.2 million army would become combat ineffective within weeks.
Given this, we can safely retire the idea that “unit” is the equivalent of a single trooper. So, how many clone troopers are in a unit? The Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms (June 15, 2015) commonly uses unit synonymously with battalion. A battalion can have anywhere between 300 and 800 soldiers. At the end of Episode II we witness battalions of clones marching on to Acclamator class transports in preparation for war. Each one of these battalions contains 624 clone troopers. If Lama Su is indeed referring to a single “unit” as a battalion then we can say that each “unit” is comprised of 624 clone troopers. Of course, when trying to decode vague terms there will be some level of disagreement, but for the sake of this series this is what we will base our assumptions on.
We can begin to get a true number for the clone army in the days prior to the Battle of Geonosis. (A quick side note: The Battle of Geonosis will be our end date as that's when the Clone Army became public knowledge. To answer our question of if it would be possible to hide the cost of creation of the Clone Army we'll look at the cost from the beginning to The Battle of Geonosis.)
1.2 million battalions of 624 individual troopers translates to 748.88 million clones on the planet Kamino. Admittedly, this is a much better number for galactic warfare. Of those 1.2 million battalions, two hundred thousand of them are combat ready. This means that 124.8 million clones are ready for war. However, in order to organize these clones we need to figure out how many clones are produced per year. Star Wars canon tells us that clones age twice as fast normal humans in order to increase production time. We know the first class of clones is 20 genetic years old at the Battle of Geonosis. This means in the nearly ten years leading up to the Battle of Geonosis 748.88 million clones have been produced.
748,800,000 clones / 10 years = 74,880,000 clones per class
74.88 million clones comprise a single class. When Obi-Wan Kenobi arrives on Kamino this means that one whole class of clone troopers is fully trained and equipped for the Clone Wars alongside 83.33% of the second class. While we will approach the remainder of our analysis as if each class is completed on a yearly basis, it's more likely there is a continuous flow of production, especially considering how difficult it would be to put nearly 75 million clones through the exact same stage of training at once. Most likely, similar to basic training for various military services, there would be a continuous flow of new recruits constantly moving down the training pipeline, not a single class per year. For ease of modeling, we will break costs out as if there were a single class each year.
Raising, Education, and Training
With 74,880,000 clone troopers in each year’s class we could multiply this by the cost of training a US Marine and then multiply this by 10 years; but, this wouldn’t take into account the fact US Marines are trained from enlistment on, whereas the clones are raised by the Kaminoans from birth. This means the cost needs to reflect the growing of the clones, raising them, and training them. Of course, it’s not this simple, as even from a young age clones were trained to use turbolasers. The clones grew up in a Spartan-like society where, from a young age, combat training was intermixed with other forms of education.
For simplicity's sake and due to the lack of relevant comparisons we ignored the cost of actually growing the clones. In theory, there would be next to zero R&D costs as the Kaminoans had already perfected cloning. But, it’s likely growing the clones would not be a negligible cost. There’s simply no way to make even a semi-accurate guess on this expense and, it’s likely, because the same facilities would be reused for growing class after class of clones the cloning facilities would end up making up a small portion of the cost per unit.
That said, raising the clones would not be a negligible cost. We opted to use the average cost of raising a child in the US as our benchmark. The USDA publishes a near yearly report on the cost of raising a child in the US and it’s broken out into component parts: food, housing, health care, education, etc. For ages 0-18 the cost is $233,610. Broken into years the cost per year is $19,468. (For simplicity and relevancy sake we will price the clone army in USD. In a previous article, Nick came up with an estimate for the Galactic GDP in USD, which we'll be using later in this series. Converting back and forth between "Republic credits" and USD would add unnecessary complexity.)
$233,610 / 18 years = $19,468 per year
This is an accurate average number for the US; but, not completely relevant to our circumstances so we couldn’t simply extend it across the board for the 9-10 years. For the initial years we decided it was a fair cost to use. While it’s likely the Kaminoans find economies of scale that provide large savings in food and housing, there is also the issue of accelerated growth causing higher metabolisms and advanced education/training technology creating higher costs (e.g. "flash training" mentioned in some of the now “Legend” books). For the first four years we used this amount. This would bring our clones to the equivalent genetic age of 8.
To create as realistic an estimate as possible we decided to incorporate military education and training costs into our estimate. Due to a lack of information in the Star Wars canon about education/training cost and what ages clones go through training progressions we had to make an educated guess. Since clones live, eat, and breathe their purpose of defending the Republic, it’s reasonable to expect advanced military training would begin early. We decided 8 would be a good age to switch from the cost of raising a typical child to a military education. For this number we looked at the tuition cost of two military colleges in the US averaged together. This number came to: $24,590 a year. While we acknowledge this is imperfect, we need to account for the fact that the average American child is not learning weapon proficiency, small unit tactics, and military strategy at a young age and this increased investment in the clones needed to be accounted for somehow. We applied this increased cost of military education through year 8, which is genetic age 16 if you’re following their equivalent age.
It’s reasonable to think in a highly militarized culture, where the goal is combat ready soldiers at 18 (as opposed to beginning training at 18, like enlistment in the United States) the training would shift its focus at 16 since this leaves only two genetic years and one real time year of actual military training. This is where things got fuzzy. It’s surprisingly difficult to find any solid numbers for costs of training for various US Military troops (if you’re bored Google “cost of training a Marine.” There are surprisingly few credible estimates and a huge range of guesses). Given the elite nature of clones and their intensive training we decided to instead use training costs for US Special Operations Forces. This is equally debated, without many hard numbers; but, most estimates hover around $500,000 initial training costs for the average SEAL or Green Beret, this being spread over approximately three years, depending on a number of factors. We decided for the final training year to then divide the total dollar amount of training a SEAL/Green Beret out by three in order to get a final year training cost of $166,667 per individual clone trooper. When all these costs are added up the typical clone class has a cost of $342,897 per trooper. This might seem high; but, remember these clones are being raised for 9 years and given elite training. Given the typical cost of Special Operations Forces (ignoring the cost of raising them) is around $500,000 it seems the Kaminoans have perfected taking advantage of economies of scale.
If you’ve been following along with the spreadsheet at this point you’re probably a little confused. If you haven’t been following along, don’t worry, this is just a small note on Star Wars canon and the cost. Operating within the canon, we find the initial clone class had an extra year of training prior to The Battle of Geonosis. Essentially, ten real time years, versus nine (which would be the training period for the typical clone class). This is why the cost has been separated out for the first class of troopers versus the rest. The first class received an additional year of training prior to deployment.
The other thing that should be noted is the total cost of all the clones currently in the pipeline is different from the total cost of putting all the classes through. This makes sense because at the time of the Battle of Geonosis not all the classes were though the pipeline yet. We're primarily interested in if it would be possible to hide the development of the Clone Army within the galaxy's Gross Galactic Product. Thus we are only concerned with the costs from day zero to the Battle of Geonosis, when the clone army became public knowledge. The total cost to this point was $120,146,083,200,000. If you look at the spreadsheet, we also found the cost per year, which steadily increases up to year 10 (which makes sense as every year there are more clones). This year to year number is what will be important to us going forward.
Of course there are a number of expenses involved in creation of a clone army beyond the cost of growing and training the troops: what about weapons, armor, vehicles, and starships? We’ll look at those costs in the next part of the series.