Representative Bruce Braley (D, IA-01) has asked President Barack Obama to disclose all costs associated with the current U.S. military intervention in Libya. From Braley’s March 24 press release:
“Just as we’re struggling to cut federal spending and bring down our national deficit, we’re also faced with the challenge of managing two military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. If we’re going to be involved in Libya, we must know how much a third military conflict will cost us,” said Rep. Braley. “I know I’m not the only who’s asking these questions – Speaker Boehner, for one, has also expressed his concerns – and I think it’s important that the President give us and all American taxpayers an accurate answer on this issue. I will always stand with people fighting for freedom and democracy around the world, and I know both President Obama and Speaker Boehner would too. But America has to address many important challenges right here at home – with spending as the most critical one. And before we spend any money abroad, I want to know how much it’s going to cost us.”
The full text of Braley’s letter to President Obama is after the jump.
Braley is right to ask substantive questions about the U.S. operation in Libya. I have been surprised by the Iowa delegation’s muted reaction to our latest military intervention, given that Obama launched this operation without Congressional authorization. To my knowledge, Senators Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin and Representatives Dave Loebsack, Leonard Boswell, Tom Latham and Steve King have not issued any official statement regarding “Operation Odyssey Dawn.”
Braley’s letter is consistent with his increased focus on fighting the deficit since last November’s election. As I’ve written before, I disagree with austerity movement types who make the deficit out to be our country’s biggest threat. Our national strength depends more on fixing other problems: reducing unemployment, reorienting our energy policy and fixing the still-broken health care system, to name a few. Getting the economy moving would do more to shrink the budget gap than the non-defense discretionary spending cuts deficit hawks demand.
I give Braley credit for acknowledging that the U.S. doesn’t have unlimited free money to blow on wars around the globe. The same can’t be said for many members of Congress who claim to care about excessive government spending.
UPDATE: Braley issued this statement on March 25:
Washington, DC – Today, Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01) released the following statement after White House spokesperson Jay Carney was asked about Rep. Braley’s letter calling for an accounting of the Libyan conflict. According to USA Today, Carney replied to reporters, “there are contingency funds…for this kind of thing.” Today Rep. Braley said:
“Yesterday I asked for accountability on the question of how much this conflict is costing us, and I have yet to see a clear response from the White House. The fact that funds for contingency military operations exist doesn’t answer the question of how much we’re spending, and will continue to spend, in Libya. I’m not the only one asking these questions – the American people are demanding answers too. And the President must give Congress and all taxpayers an accurate answer.”
Yesterday, Rep. Braley sent a letter to President Obama asking for a full accounting of the Libyan conflict and the costs to taxpayers. Speaker Boehner sent a similar letter to the President. Rep. Braley has previously called for a full accounting of the human and financial costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Congress of the United States
House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
March 24, 2011
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20502
Dear President Obama,
I write today with concerns over the cost of “Operation Odyssey Dawn” in Libya. I echo many of Speaker Boehner’s concerns from his letter dated March 23, 2011, that we owe our constituents an accounting of the cost of these operations.
As you’re well aware, the current level of federal spending and our national deficit is unsustainable, and as we work to withdraw from our involvement in two other conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, I firmly believe that American taxpayers deserve a full accounting of the additional burden of a third conflict. With that in mind, how much has Operation Odyssey Dawn, and any supporting functions, cost taxpayers to date, and what is the daily cost of continued operations?
I appreciate your statements that U.S. involvement is temporary and that coalition partners will soon be assuming responsibility for the enforcement of the no-fly zone. When do you see that transition happening, and how will this impact costs to the American taxpayer after the transfer of responsibility? If this operation requires a longer term commitment, what are the cost projections by month of continued U.S. involvement?
I encourage you to make clear to the American people the costs of this new conflict. I look forward to your responses to my questions, and thank you for your attention to this letter.
Member of Congress