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Bush Finalizing Massive Plan to Pay for War in Iraq
Fri March 21, 2003 03:12 PM ET
By Adam Entous

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The initial air assault on Iraq calls for launching nearly 700 long-range Tomahawk cruise missiles at a cost of almost $1 million apiece, representing a small chunk of a war budget expected to top $75 billion.

While President Bush's administration is expected to send its massive war budget to Congress for swift approval as early as next week, the Senate acted preemptively on Friday by voting to trim $100 billion from Bush's tax-cut plan to cover war-related costs.

People familiar with the White House plan say it is expected to total closer to $75 billion, including more than $62 billion for the Pentagon. Initial Pentagon estimates had put the price tag at more than $95 billion.

Bush tentatively plans to meet with Congressional leaders on his war budget on Monday, Congressional sources said.

War cost estimates are inherently flawed since nobody knows how long the fighting will last or how many oil fields will be set ablaze.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer warned on Friday: "This still can be a long, lengthy, dangerous engagement."

In addition to money for troops and bombs, Bush is expected to ask Congress for seed money for the reconstruction of Iraq after the fighting dies down.

Billions more will beef up security in New York and other possible terrorist targets in the United States.

Bush will also ask Congress to provide aid to key allies in the region to help them weather the economic shock of the war.

The White House is offering $1 billion in direct military assistance and $9 billion in loan guarantees to Israel; Egypt would get $2 billion in loan guarantees and $300 million in economic grants; Jordan is also in line to receive more than $1 billion, including subsidized oil, sources say.

Under pressure from some lawmakers, the administration is also considering including aid to cash-strapped U.S. airlines.


While the White House has steered clear of providing a breakdown, the Congressional Budget Office estimated war costs at just over $10 billion during the first month of combat and about $8 billion per month after that.

Military hardware doesn't come cheap. In addition to exotic systems like the Tomahawk cruise, even relatively mundane weapons like tank-busting munitions range in cost from $130,000 to $300,000. Laser-guided bombs go for about $100,000 each.

The deployment of ground forces to the region may cost up to $14 billion. After hostilities end, the cost to return that force to home bases would be roughly $9 billion more, CBO said. But that's only the start.

Experts say occupation costs could far exceed the direct military costs of the war.

The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments estimated these five-year costs at between $25 billion and $105 billion, depending on the number of U.S. troops on the ground.

Reconstructing Iraq will add billions of dollars more, though the United States plans to redirect Iraqi oil revenues for that purpose.

The Pentagon also plans to use the Iraqi regular army to help rebuild a postwar Iraq and is recruiting and hiring Iraqis living in America and Europe to play a temporary role in the reconstruction process.

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