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So How Much is This New <strike>War</strike> Conflict Costing?

" generally costs $10,000 per hour, including maintenance and fuel, to operate F-15s and F-16s."

Ever wonder how much a Tomahawk missile costs? How about 110 of them? And what effect will those prices have on GOP attemps to trim the budget? Those are the questions that many are asking as American involves itself in yet another international conflict. And the answers aren't too settling.

Originally, as The Hill reports, Republicans were on a roll this month, steadily trumpeting budget cuts to the tune of more than $285 million a day since the beginning of March. But that could all be for naught as the president thrusts the nation into an open-ended military mission.

Take the cost of the approximately 110 Tomahawk missiles launched on the first day of operation. The Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a Washington think tank, estimates the Pentagon likely spent more than $81 million on those, says The Hill. National Journal puts the cost for those missiles higher at between $112 million to $168 million.

National Journal goes on to detail other costs, including some of those associated with the marathon B-2 bombing run we reported on yesterday:

Meanwhile, it generally costs $10,000 per hour, including maintenance and fuel, to operate F-15s and F-16s. Those costs do not include the payloads dropped from the aircraft. The B-2s dropped 45 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMS, which are 2,000-pound bombs that cost between $30,000 and $40,000 apiece to replace.

On the personnel front, special pay for soldiers involved in the operation will kick in immediately -- unlike the munitions costs, which the Pentagon can defer.

Another think tank, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), said in a report released earlier this month that a no-fly zone covering just the northern portion of Libya will cost between $30 million and $100 million per week. It also said there are one-time bills that could cost between $400 million and $800 million.

As a result, one former budget official told The Hill that Congress can expect to see a supplemental spending bill for Libya.

“Yeah, sure it will come,” Gordon Adams, who oversaw defense budgeting at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) during the Clinton years, said. “Any opportunity to raise money inside the Department of Defense will be seized.”

He went as far as to say costs for the Libyan no-fly zone “could get to $1 [billion] or $1.5 billion, if it goes on for a year."

Kenneth Baer, a spokesman for OMB, told National Journal that there are currently no plans to request such supplemental funding. He didn't rule out, however, such requests in the future.

"The operation in Libya is being funded with existing resources at this point," he said. "We are not planning to request a supplemental at this time."

So far, the Pentagon has not released official cost estimates for the new conflict, which will depend on the length and scope of the mission.

“We are working on cost estimates,” Pentagon spokeswoman Cheryl Irwin told The Hill  in a Monday e-mail. For now, department officials are “cash flowing the Libyan operations out of funding available under the [2011] continuing resolution."

Still, that doesn't allay the fears of Sen. Richard Luger (R-IN). “Congress has been squabbling for months over a budget to run the federal government for a fiscal year that is almost half over,” he said in a statement.

“We argue over where to cut $100 million here and there from programs many people like,” Lugar said. “So here comes an open-ended military action with no-end game envisioned.”

One last thing…
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