With the military intervention in Libya costing the United States $100 million per day, the American Department of Defense is now doing its best to avoid asking for an emergency funding to cover the troops’ expenses.
The cost of the military strikes in Libya is likely to exceed the daily $100 million as the strikes continue and especially that the strikes aiming at imposing a no-fly zone target the capital Tripoli and the whole Libyan coast, which requires more troops and arms, according to a report issued by the Washington-based The Center of Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA).
The report anticipated that members of the coalition share the costs of the air strikes that are to impose the no-fly zone. The weekly cost of air strikes alone is estimated at $400-800 million.
The final cost the United States will pay is contingent upon the duration and scope of the strikes, yet Todd Harrison, Senior Fellow for Defense Budget Studies, said the cost of the military operation in Libya could easily exceed one billion dollars regardless of those two factors.
Harrison estimated the cost of the no-fly zone after the first strikes are over at $30-100 million per week.
The U.S. Department of Defense could, in fact, fund Operation Odyssey Dawn with the part in the budget that covers emergencies and with the surplus from last year’s budget.
According to Gordon Adams, who was a member of the team in charge of putting defense budget in the Clinton administration, it is normal for the Pentagon to ask for loans in order to cover the expenses of similar operations.
The White House announced Monday that it is not yet ready for requesting an emergency loan, yet Dov Zakheim, undersecretary of defense in the George W. Bush administration, said the Pentagon is likely to request a loan if the expenses of American troops in Libya exceed $1 billion.
A request for extra funding on the part of the Pentagon is expected to be met with mixed reactions by the Congress, which is now trying to curb the U.S. budget deficiency. Although several prominent Congress members supported military intervention in Libya, some are still concerned about the duration of this intervention and its impact on the economy.
Senator Richard Lugar, a Republican from Indiana, argued that Operation Odyssey Dawn will be extremely costly even if it doesn’t last for long. In an interview with the BBC, Lugar expressed his surprise that the American administration increases its military expenses at the time when the Congress is constantly discussing budget deficiency and the crippled economy.
The unexpected expenses of the war on Libya came at a time when the Department of Defense is putting pressure on the Congress to approve the 2011 budget. The Congress is trying to cut down on military costs by $23 million for the current fiscal year, which started on Oct. 1. The Pentagon had asked for $708.3 billion, out of which $159.3 billion are to be allocated to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The hefty costs of military intervention in Libya basically fall under the category of ammunition, warplanes fuel, and allowance paid to troops taking part in the operation.
On the first day of strikes, the United States launched 112 Tomahawk long-range cruise missiles, which cost $112-168 million, that is $1.5 million for each missile. The American Department of Defense purchases around 200 Tomahawk missiles every year.
According to military observers, warplanes B-2, F-15, and F-16 used in the strikes against Libya consume huge amounts of fuel and cost a lot to maintain. F-15 and F-16 cost $10,000 per hour while the cost of B-2 amounts to $30-40 per hour.
Eventually, it is the duration and the scope of United States operations in Libya that will determine the costs. If the strikes last for one week only, the Department of Defense can handle them form its current budget. However, if Operation Odyssey Dawn lasts for weeks or months, the Pentagon will have no other way except requesting a loan.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)