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Sherman: Libya effort costing U.S. billions a week

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Rep. Brad Sherman, a California Democrat, said Thursday that the White House is “dramatically underestimating” the cost of the nation’s military involvement in Libya by relying on misleading accounting.

“That effort is costing us billions a week,” Mr. Sherman, a certified public accountant, said in his opening remarks at a House Foreign Relations Committee hearing on reforming the United Nations with U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice.

Last week, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates testified that the nation’s initial involvement in establishing a no-fly zone over the skies of Libya carried a $550 million price tag and that the cost going forward would be about $40 million a month. He also assured lawmakers he had enough money in his budget to absorb the costs — though he wasn’t ready to say where exactly the money would come from.

But Mr. Sherman on Thursday said the estimates are based on what’s known as marginal cost accounting, which doesn’t account for things such as overhead costs from the development of the weapons systems and equipment being used, or the salaries of the people involved in the effort.

“We need to use full cost accounting,” he said.

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