Thursday, October 30, 2014

Costs of US operations against Islamic State already in excess of one billion

According to the Associated Press, the Pentagon has spent up to $1.1 billion in military operations directed against the Islamic State both in Iraq and Syria since operations began back in the middle of June.



The Pentagon previously said that it is spending between $7 and $10 million a day. The AP calculation is based upon this estimate. US Central Command released figures that put the cost of Navy airstrikes and Tomahawk cruise missile launches at $62 million but did not indicate the costs of Air Force strikes. As of the first week of October there had been more than 266 airstrikes in Iraq and 103 in Syria. Commander Bil Urban, a spokesperson, for the Pentagon claimed that there had been 6,600 sorties sorties by the US and allied aircraft at a cost of some $580 million since airstrikes began on August 8. Earlier, the Defense Dept. had claimed an average of around $7 million a day for the air campaign but that has now been upped to $8.1 million as the pace of airstrikes has increased with the total cost of just the air campaign at $580 million.
 Some independent analysts say the Defense Deptarment underestimates costs claiming that the costs are already beyond a billion dollars and may rise to several billion within a year. Todd Harrison from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments claims that the war costs could amount to $2.4 billion to $3.8 billion a year. If the bombing raids are expanded significantly he sees the costs climbing to $4.2 billion to $6..8 billion a year.
 A large part of the costs are the huge number of surveillance flights. The military campaign, with the euphemistic name "Operation Inherent Resolve" involves thousands of spy flights plus aerial refueling operations. Drones used in surveillance cost about $1,000 per hour of operation for ordinary Predator and Reaper drones but the high-altitude Global Hawk drones cost much more at $7,000 an hour. Aircraft such as the E-8-J-STAR cost up to $22,000 per hour to operate.
The operations are not funded through the regular budget but through what is the equivalent of a credit card with no upper spending limit the Overseas Contingency Operations Fund. The fund had about $85 billion for the year ending Sept. 30th but is scheduled to drop to $54 billion this year. However, the fund can always be replenished.
Other countries such as the UK will also contribute to the US-led operation against the Islamic State. Malcolm Chalmers, research director at the Royal United Services Institute said that past experience provides some idea of costs although total cost will depend upon the intensity and length of operation. He estimates that the UK seven month mission in Libya cost about $390 million including the missiles used and flight hours. He said that cost would be in the the "ballpark" for Iraq and Syria strikes assuming that the UK used only air power and the campaign did not last more than a couple of years. The UK has special Brimstone precision missiles at a cost of about $240,000 each. The UK may use Tornado GR4 aircraft that cost around $57,000 per hour to operate. The UK also has Storm Shadow cruise missiles costing $1.3 million each and also Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from submarines that cost around $1.5 million each. The UK has already been using Tomahawk missiles in attacks in Syria.

No comments: