Gates offers ideas on how to pay costs of Libya military mission

The U.S. military's involvement in Libya likely can be paid for by amending a war-funding request already submitted to Congress, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told lawmakers Thursday.

The Pentagon spent about $550 million during the first days of the campaign, and it expects costs to level off soon at about $40 million a month.

But Gates told the House Armed Services Committee that “it would be hard to eat this cost in our base budget.”

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While some lawmakers and analysts predict the Pentagon will send a special war-funding request to Congress to cover its Libya tab, Gates offered a different idea.

The outgoing defense secretary said he believes Libya costs can be covered by shifting funds within a war-funding bill for Afghanistan and Iraq “without amending the topline of that request.”

Gates later said another option is to re-direct to the Libya operation already appropriated war funding that Congress directed for “things we do not need and do not want.”

Gates said Pentagon officials are still in deliberations with White House budget officials about how best to finance the operation.