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Obama's Libya Decision Could Undo GOP Spending Cuts

Libyans inspect the wreckage of a US  F-15 fighter jet after it crashed east of Benghazi, Libya, Tuesday, March 22, 2011.

hide captionLibyans inspect the wreckage of a US F-15 fighter jet after it crashed east of Benghazi, Libya, Tuesday, March 22, 2011.

Anja Niedringhaus/ASSOCIATED PRESS

You hate to seem like too much of bean counter when saving innocent civilian lives from a brutal dictator is the goal.

But the loss Tuesday of a U.S. F-15 fighter jet in Libya from an apparent mechanical problem (fortunately the crew ejected and was rescued) just underscores the financial expense of the U.S. effort in the North African nation, a cost now being questioned.

While it's difficult to get an exact cost for the aircraft, GlobalSecurity.org puts the unit cost for an Air Force version of the F-15, which is a fairly old aircraft design dating back to the 1970s, at $55 million.

According to The Hill, U.S. military's activities over Libya are costing perhaps more than $100 million a day even without lost aircraft. And the news outlet further notes that if U.S. participation at the current operational tempo goes on long enough, a lot of the "savings" from Republican-driven spending cuts could be undone.

An excerpt from The Hill:

GOP leaders have trumpeted enacted spending reductions that amount to more than $285 million per day since the beginning of March.

But defense analysts say the Pentagon could be burning through more than $100 million per day in Libya, putting those budget savings at risk.

In separate briefings on Monday, the Defense Department and the White House said they do not yet have a projected price tag for the military action that began on Saturday. Defense officials said they are still "collecting" and analyzing early costs.

With Congress determined to rein in federal spending, the cost of the U.S. intervention is sure to become a top concern on Capitol Hill.

It sounds like it's already a significant concern. This is from a statement by Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) issued Monday. :

"Congress has been squabbling for months over a budget to run the federal government for a fiscal year that is almost half over," Lugar said. "We argue over where to cut $100 million here and there from programs many people like. So here comes an open-ended military action with no-end game envisioned.

With the Arab League already having second thoughts, and Turkey nixing NATO taking over, today there are even more questions. We also have to debate how all this effects the Saudis, Bahrain and Yemen."

"The facts are that our budget is stretched too far and our troops are stretched too far," Lugar said. "The American people require a full understanding and accounting, through a full and open debate in Congress."

Keep in mind Lugar is one of the Senate Republicans most friendly to Obama. Obama's first foreign trip as a senator was with Lugar when they traveled to the former Soviet bloc to inspect nuclear disarmament efforts there.

Lugar, the senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has long been one of the Senate's top foreign-policy experts.

Lugar's faces a 2012 primary challenge from the Tea Party so that must be kept in mind. Still, if Lugar is talking bringing up the budget impact of the president's Libya decision, the issue is already joined.

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