Compared With Other Wars, This Was a Bargain WAR IN THE GULF

March 10, 1991|By Graeme Browning

The Persian Gulf war wasn't cheap, but the United States got a lot of bang for its buck compared with other conflicts it has fought in this century, defense analysts say.

No one yet knows what the final price tag will be for the war, but estimates from such sources as the Congressional Research Service and the Washington-based Defense Budget Project range from about $43 billion to $47.5 billion.

The White House has not released an official cost estimate. However, last week the House approved by a 380-19 vote a bill clearing $42.6 billion for Desert Storm costs. Most or all of this would be met by funds pledged by U.S. allies, but up to $15 billion of U.S. money could be used.

No matter what the final figure, the gulf war cost far less than the Korean War, which carried a price tag of $265 billion when calculated in 1991 dollars, or the Vietnam War, which cost $570 billion, according to a study by CRS analyst Stephen Daggett.

World War I cost approximately eight times what this war did, and World War II, at a cost of $3.1 trillion in 1991 dollars, isn't even in the same league. On the other hand, the 1989 invasion of Panama cost $170 million and the 1983 invasion of Grenada a mere $100 million, according to Mr. Daggett's calculations.

Some analysts have suggested that the gulf war cost a small amount compared to other U.S. wars because most of the funds expended went for high-tech weaponry that decimated Iraqi defenses quickly and efficiently.

Dr. Natalie J. Goldring, who studied the costs of the war for the Defense Budget Project, says the allied forces lost only about one plane a day during the war or one plane for every 2,000 to 3,000 air sorties, counting both combat and non-combat losses.

A "very good, normal loss ratio," on the other hand, would have been five planes per 1,000 sorties. "Technology, training, a lack of interference by the Iraqis, luck -- all those factors came into play. Especially the luck," she said.

Here are some other expenditures during the war:

*The Senate Appropriations Committee estimates 140 Patriot missiles were fired between Aug. 2, 1990, and Feb. 28, 1991. At $700,000 each -- according to Martin Marietta Corp., which assembles the missile -- the total cost for Patriots: $980 million.

*Costs for the call-up of thousands of reservists and the support of regular active-duty troops in the gulf from Jan. 1 to Feb. 28, including "imminent danger" pay, transportation and extra fuel, totaled $9.4 billion, according to Defense Budget Project estimates.

*The air war from Jan. 17 to Feb. 24 cost approximately $175 million per day, or a total of $6.8 billion, according to the Defense Budget Project. The ground war from Feb. 24 to Feb. 27 cost $400 million per day, or a total of $1.6 billion.

*Tomahawk cruise missiles carry a price tag of $1.01 million each, according to McDonnell Douglas, one of the two prime contractors for cruise missile in the United States. The Pentagon says 284 Tomahawks were launched, for a total cost of $284 million.

*Saudi Arabia provided all of the food, water, transportation, petroleum, oil and lubricants used by allied forces deployed in Saudi Arabia. Estimated cost per month in 1990: $1.2 billion.

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