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Cost of U.S. Buildup May Hit $37 Billion : Military: New troop deployment compels the Pentagon to raise its estimate. It plans to ask Congress for more funds to help cover expenses.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Operation Desert Shield will cost an estimated $29 billion to $37 billion this fiscal year, forcing the Pentagon to seek supplemental funds from Congress as well as additional contributions from other countries, Pentagon officials said Monday.

The additional deployment of more than 200,000 fresh troops caused the Pentagon to adjust upward its earlier cost estimate of $17 billion--an estimate that assumes no combat. In the case of war, independent analysts have estimated costs at as much as $1 billion or $2 billion a day.

The Pentagon is expected to seek new budget authority from Congress to fund the increases in the coming weeks, as its cost estimates become firmer. Congress in September directed the Defense Department to return with a supplemental funding request once the full costs of the deployment became clear.

The new estimate is expected to intensify the debate about the costs of the massive U.S. deployment and the extent to which countries affected by the Mideast crisis are contributing to the U.S. effort.

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Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, moved in part by growing congressional pressure, last week pressed Washington’s North Atlantic allies to contribute more combat troops, logistic help and financial support to the Mideast deployment.

“Congress has mentally adjusted itself to giving us a supplemental,” said Pentagon spokesman Pete Williams, who added that lawmakers have long anticipated additional costs.

Still, Congress’ invitation for the Pentagon to adjust its estimates came before Cheney announced that the United States was sending a second wave of troops to bolster the force already there. The decision to mount the new deployment has drawn criticism from many leading lawmakers, including Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sam Nunn (D-Ga.).

The accuracy of the cost estimates has become a politically sensitive issue for the Pentagon, which has said the new figures could change with rising fuel costs and help from third countries with the airlift and sea-lift of U.S. equipment.

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Some congressional analysts have questioned whether all the expenses provided for in the earlier Pentagon estimate were necessary for the deployment, including a $1-billion military construction budget.

In recent days, Cheney has warned that the costly U.S. deployment could disrupt plans to shrink the size of the armed forces and scale back defense spending.

“On the one hand, we’re conducting one of the biggest military operations in terms of the deployment of forces . . . and simultaneously talking about a long-term plan that takes down the size of the force. . . . It’s easy to get schizophrenic about that process,” Cheney said.

“Everything is subject to review,” he added.

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As the Pentagon continued the second wave of its massive troop deployment Monday, it announced that the Air Force is sending more F-15 Eagle fighter jets to the Persian Gulf area for Operation Desert Shield.

The Army also announced it had called to active duty another 1,457 reservists from 20 states, bringing the total number of reservists called up to 189,250.

Elements of the 36th Tactical Fighter Wing at Bitburg, Germany, will deploy to the Middle East starting Dec. 28, the Pentagon said.

It did not say how many planes will go; a tactical fighter wing normally would include about 70 aircraft.

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The Air Force in recent days has disclosed deployments of a variety of additional aircraft to the gulf.


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