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Tuesday
Mar222011

US Military Intervention in Libya Costing Taxpayers Millions

U.S. Navy photo by Interior Communications Electrician Fireman Roderick Eubanks/Released(WASHINGTON) -- Three days after an international military coalition intervened in Libya, the cost to U.S. taxpayers reached the hundreds of millions of dollars and continues to climb.

U.S. ships and submarines in the Mediterranean have unleashed at least $225 million in Tomahawk cruise missiles from their arsenals. U.S. warplanes have dropped dozens of bombs with price-tags of tens of thousands of dollars apiece. And operation of the war craft, guzzling ever-expensive fuel to maintain their positions off the Libyan coast and in the skies above, could reach millions of dollars a week, experts say.

"Each sortie, even if it drops no munitions, is very pricey," said Winslow Wheeler with the Center for Defense Information. "These airplanes cost us tens of thousands of dollars to operate per hour, and the fancier you get in terms of planes, the costs get truly astounding."

The 3 B2 stealth bombers that flew from Missouri to Libya and back on Sunday, for example, each cost an estimated $80,000 per hour to operate, Wheeler said.

That means their 25-hour flight had a price tag of $6 million, and the 45 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) they dropped added at least $1 million more.

So far the Pentagon has financed the mission to take out Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's air defenses and disrupt his attacks on opposition forces using resources in its existing budget, which accounts for unanticipated military actions. And the White House has not been forced to ask Congress for additional funds for the campaign.

But experts say the administration may have to submit an emergency supplemental budget request for Libya later this year, assuming U.S. involvement in the international military operation does not end swiftly.

The cost of operating the no-fly zone over Libya alone could cost the U.S. an estimated $30 million to $100 million a week, a study by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments found. 

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