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Cost of Libyan Intervention: $550 Million and Counting Cost of Libyan Intervention: $550 Million and Counting Cost of Libyan Intervention: $550 Million and Counting Cost of Libyan Interventi...

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Homepage / LIBYA

Cost of Libyan Intervention: $550 Million and Counting

Libyan rebels leave the rebel held port of Brega to the front line on March 29, as forces loyal to Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi pushed rebels back in east Libya.(MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)

photo of Julia Edwards
March 29, 2011

How much military intervention in Libya is going to cost the U.S. is high on the list of questions for the Obama administration.

The Department of Defense is spending $2 billion each week in Afghanistan and, experts predict, will face $23 billion in cuts should Congress not pass a revised budget.

Among those in Congress who want an answer is Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “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.”


Although the forecast is still murky, we’re taking a look at the price tag on the equipment American troops are using now and how much experts predict will be spent with continued U.S. involvement. For more estimates and details of congressional pushback on the Libyan mission, read Megan Scully’s assessment from five days into the conflict.


First Week Total: $550 million

The most recent Defense Department numbers place the cost of the first week of Libyan mission to the U.S. taxpayer at $550 million. The Pentagon said it expects the weekly total to decrease after initial strikes end and NATO takes control of the operation on March 30. Above, General Carter F. Ham, the commander of the United States Africa Command speaks to the media at the Italian military airport of Sigonella.

Tomahawk Missiles: Roughly $241.8 million

Each Tomahawk missile costs the Pentagon between $1 million and 1.5 million. U.S. forces had fired 186 Tomahawks as of March 28, compared to the seven fired by allies.



Future Missions: 'Could Easily Pass the $1 Billion Mark'

The length and level of future U.S. involvement in Libya remains uncertain. However, Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, has said that U.S. costs could “easily pass the $1 billion mark on this operation, regardless of how well things go.”

Replacing a Downed Fighter Jet: $100 Million

The F-15 fighter jet lost in the first week of military action is valued at about $60 million. However, over the last decade spent at war, the Pentagon has routinely replaced older jets with newer, more advanced models -- such as the F-35, which costs $100 million.


Future Costs: $30 Million to $100 Million a Week

Todd Harrison, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, estimates the cost of maintaining a coastal no-fly zone after initial strikes in the range of $30 million to $100 million per week.

Obama's Defense: Doing Nothing Would Cost U.S. More

On March 28, President Obama addressed the nation to explain the necessity of U.S. involvement in Libya. Of funding such an operation during a period of fiscal strain, Obama said, "[W]hile I will never minimize the costs involved in military action, I am convinced that a failure to act in Libya would have carried a far greater price for America."

Catherine Hollander and Megan Scully contributed contributed to this article.

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