How much would a strike on Syria cost the U.S.?

September 10, 2013

As it does with most important legislation, the Congressional Budget Office has tried to determine the financial impact of a Senate resolution that would authorize use of military force against the Syrian government, which allegedly used chemical weapons to kill more than 1,400 civilians.

(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg) - Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Sept. 10.
(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg) – Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Sept. 10.

On Monday, the nonpartisan agency issued a mere one-page report on the matter. So, how much do the analysts think a strike on Syria would cost?

The short answer, from that short report: No idea.

“The administration has not detailed how it would use the authority that would be provided by this resolution; thus, CBO has no basis for estimating the costs of implementing [the resolution],” the report said.

The CBO is obviously limited in its ability to determine the price tag for an undefined military response. Despite the resolution, Congress doesn’t legislate specific defense tactics, and President Obama has fairly broad authority as commander in chief to conduct operations as he sees fit whenever force is authorized — and even when it’s not authorized, to some extent.

Even though Congress does not micromanage military actions, the Senate resolution attempts to set some guidelines for a potential strike on Syria. The measure would allow the president to use force for up to 90 days, but only after he shows that such a response is necessary. The administration would also have to lay out a strategy for negotiating a political settlement, review U.S. policy toward Syria and submit periodic reports on the progress of the military actions.

During testimony last week before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel offered a ballpark estimate of how much the potential and yet-to-be-defined military action against Syria could cost.

“We have looked at the different costs, depending on the different options, depending on the decision the president makes,” Hagel said. “We have given some ranges of this. It would be in the tens of millions of dollars, that kind of range.”

Apparently, that’s as much precision as lawmakers and the American public will have for now.

For more on the topic of Syria, check out these articles:

To connect with Josh Hicks, follow his Twitter feed or e-mail  josh.hicks@washpost.comFor more federal news, visit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics. E-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

 

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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