The Cost of the Third Contingency

The Defense Department has spent about $550 million to date on Operation Odyssey Dawn, Robert Hale, the Pentagon’s top budget official, told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday. Of that, roughly 60 percent was for munitions, mostly Tomahawk cruise missiles used to lay the groundwork for the implementation of the no-fly zone across Libya’s northern coast, he said. Looking ahead, it’s difficult to predict how much the operation will cost because it’s not yet clear how long the United States will be involved or what the operating tempo will look like, said Hale. Assuming that the United States hands off more and more control to coalition forces, while continuing to provide critical intelligence-reconnaissance-surveillance capabilities, Hale estimated that it would cost an additional $40 million a month, as long as “we stay at that lower level” of activity. Odyssey Dawn entails the UN-sanctioned combat air activities over Libya and maritime activities off its coast to protect Libyan civilians from attack by Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi’s forces. It began March 19.