What ‘Obama’s Folly’ is costing you
The cost of the American and European assault on Libya already easily tops hundreds of millions of dollars, and has the potential to rise significantly if the operation drags on for weeks or months.
Coalition efforts to undermine Muammar al-Qaddafi’s air defenses and save the rebels from defeat have lasted for four nights already. If the U.S. role continues to be limited, with the Pentagon using its existing budget to cover the expense, the price tag on involvement will only rise moderately.
As of Tuesday, a U.S. defense official told Fox News the U.S. has fired 161 Tomahawk cruise missiles into Libyan territory, with 24 missiles being fired overnight Monday into Tuesday. Each missile is priced at $1 million to $1.5 million apiece and dispatched B-2 stealth bombers — round-trip from Missouri — to drop 2,000-pound bombs on Libyan sites.
That’s a total flying time of 25 hours, with the operating cost for one hour priced at least $10,000.
Yet those numbers only provide part of the costs. The B-2 bombers require expensive fuel — and rely on air tankers to refuel in flight — and probably needed parts replaced upon their return to Whiteman Air Force Base. The pilots most certainly will get combat pay.
An array of U.S. warplanes; 11 ships steaming in the Mediterranean, including three submarines, two destroyers and two amphibious ships; and one F-15 fighter jet that crashed, costing $75 million or more — it all adds up to numbers that unnerve budget-conscious lawmakers.
“Every six hours we have another billion-dollar deficit,” said Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., a member of the House Armed Services Committee. “This could cost us a billion dollars there, which means simply another billion-dollar debt that our kids, our grandkids and our great-grandkids are going to have to pay back.”
The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, in an analysis this month, estimated that the Libyan no-fly zone could cost $100 million to $300 million per week.
In a classified briefing for congressional staff Tuesday, officials from the State Department, Pentagon and Treasury were pressed on the cost. They declined to address the issue.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, called for Congress to de-fund military operations in Libya, which he estimated costs between $30 million and $100 million a week.
The government already is operating on a series of stopgap spending bills for the current fiscal year amid the clamor to cut the budget, including defense dollars. The Pentagon has requested $553 billion for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, plus $118 billion in war costs for Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The Pentagon really needs to do this on the cheap,” said Loren Thompson, head of the Virginia-based Lexington Institute and adviser to several major defense contractors. “If someone suggests more money to do the Libyan operation, most voters would say, `Let’s not do the Libyan operation.”‘
In the past, the United States has footed the bill for some costly no-fly zones.
In the 1990s, the U.S. participated in Operation Noble Anvil, an air assault in Yugoslavia. Enforcement of the no-fly zone lasted from March 1999 to June 1999, and cost $1.8 billion. After the first Persian Gulf War, two no-fly zones in Iraq to protect citizens from Saddam Hussein’s wrath cost about $700 million a year — from 1992 to 2003.