War on Libya: Now How Much Would You Pay? Or, Later How Much Will You Pay?


National Journal on costs and responsibility in our bouncing baby war. It may not be constitutional, as Jacob Sullum notes below, but hell, at least it will be costly:

The first day of Operation Odyssey Dawn had a price tag that was well over $100 million for the U.S. in missiles alone….Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said on Monday that the U.S. costs could "easily pass the $1 billion mark on this operation, regardless of how well things go."….

The White House said on Monday it was not prepared to request emergency funding yet, but former Pentagon comptroller Dov Zakheim estimated that the Defense Department would need to send a request for supplemental funding to Capitol Hill if the U.S. military's share of Libya operations expenses tops $1 billion……

Harrison initially estimated that maintaining a coastal no-fly zone after those initial strikes would cost in the range of $30 million to $100 million per week. If the coalition continues to strike ground targets, the weekly costs would be closer to the higher range, he said.

Ah, but look at what we're getting for it!

On the first day of strikes alone, U.S.-led forces launched 112 long-range Tomahawk cruise missiles, which cost about $1 million to $1.5 million apiece, from ships stationed off the Libyan coast. That totaled $112 million to $168 million. Since those first strikes, U.S. and British forces have launched at least another 12 Tomahawk missiles.

The Defense Department typically buys about 200 Tomahawks a year. While the military likely can put off buying new missiles for months, it will ultimately need to boost planned procurement rates to refill its stockpile.

And coalition, schmoilition, it's still Our War:

For now, the United States continues to lead operations, although U.S. military leaders insist that control will soon be transferred to an as-yet unnamed coalition leader.

Army Gen. Carter Ham, the Odyssey Dawn operational commander, told reporters on Monday that allies are stepping up to shoulder much of the mission. There were 60 sorties flown on Sunday, about half by U.S. aircraft. But on Monday, coalition allies were expected to fly more than half of the day's 70 to 80 sorties.

Complicating matters, however, is the fact that most of the coalition nations' militaries, which operate on a fraction of the Pentagon's yearly allowance, are grappling with budget pressures of their own. While the Defense Department hopes to transfer control to coalition partners in the coming days, the longer the operations over Libya continue, the more difficult it will be for allies to take the lead.

And on the responsibility side, the World's Greatest Deliberative Body™ wants to make sure its hands are fully clean:

When the president ordered the U.S. military to intervene in Libya's civil war, a decision that could end up costing billions, the congressional leadership from both parties had little to say about the expense, preferring to let Obama make the decisions…..there is no clear consensus on what, if anything, Congress will do to use its power of the purse to limit the Libya campaign.

Committee leadership at the House and Senate Appropriations and Budget committees have not weighed in on how the conflict's cost—as yet undefined, but estimated to be at least $1 billion—could affect a final deal for spending in 2011 or the 2012 budget request. If sorties continue, the operation could take a serious chunk out of the approximately $8 billion in budget cuts House Republicans have managed to enact so far.

House Republicans did not propose cutting military funding in their 2011 spending bill, though it consumes about a fifth of government spending. 

Ah, Republicans, stay "fiscally responsible," buddies.

One Republican, though, is speaking out on costs, Constitutionality, and sense, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.):