The Washington Post

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

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 with news tips and other suggestions.


Josh Hicks covers Maryland politics and government. He previously anchored the Post’s Federal Eye blog, focusing on federal accountability and workforce issues.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
New Hampshire has voted. The Democrats debate on Thursday. Get caught up on the race.
What happened in New Hampshire
The Post's Philip Rucker and Robert Costa say...
For Trump, the victory here was sweet vindication, showing that his atypical campaign could prevail largely on the power of celebrity and saturation media coverage. But there was also potential for concern in Tuesday's outcome. Trump faces doubts about his discipline as a candidate and whether he can build his support beyond the levels he has shown in the polls.
The Post's John Wagner and Anne Gearan say...
Hillary Clinton, who was declared the winner of the Iowa caucuses last week by the narrowest of margins, now finds herself struggling to right her once-formidable campaign against a self-described democratic socialist whom she has accused of selling pipe dreams to his supporters.
People have every right to be angry. But they're also hungry for solutions.
Hillary Clinton, in her New Hampshire primary night speech
I am going to be the greatest jobs president that God ever created.
Donald Trump, in his New Hampshire primary victory speech
Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
See results from N.H.

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.