Cost of cult siege in Texas exceeds $1 million as bills pile up

March 10, 1993|By Knight-Ridder News Service

WASHINGTON -- The siege goes on. The bills roll in.

Guns and ammo? No problem, they bring their own. It's the klieg ZTC lights and dog food that start to add up.

Not to mention the $109,000 the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms shelled out for "aircraft and supplies."

Even the federal bean counters have a role to play in the standoff in Waco, Texas.

As the stalemate between the Branch Davidian cult and federal agents dragged past the midpoint of its second week, details emerged yesterday of just how dearly David Koresh is making the U.S. government pay.

More than $1 million so far. Possibly millions more.

According to law enforcement sources, as many as 700 state and local officers and federal agents are posted near the 77-acre farm complex, including 250 from the ATF, 175 FBI agents, and 35 Texas Rangers.

With a $74-a-day federal per diem for food and lodging, the daily tab just for the ATF and FBI to eat and sleep is $31,450.

It could be worse. In New York, where both the ATF and FBI have also detailed personnel to assist in the probe of the World Trade Center bombing, the federal per diem -- which varies by geographical location -- is $174.

The ATF, which faces a regularly scheduled House budget hearing today, disclosed yesterday that the bill for the first week of the operation in Waco was $538,246.

If the bureau, a division of the Treasury Department, is forced to continue the siege through the end of this month, the projected cost is $2,152,984, according to Jim Pasco, governmental affairs chief of the ATF.

"This is a tremendous burden financially for all of us, and we're thinking about it," Mr. Pasco said. "But they are going to have to find some money, because we're not going to stop."

Four ATF agents died on Feb. 28 in a gun battle with the heavily armed cultists. A memorial service scheduled for tomorrow has been postponed.

"It's clearly going to cost millions, if you include salaries and the cost of moving people around," said ATF spokesman Jack Killorin. "But the costs of not doing this, the cost of not intervening, are too high."

The FBI was more circumspect, simply saying that a reported cost of $2 million per day was "exaggerated."

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