Donald Trump launched U.S. military action in Syria last night which involved 59 Tomahawk missiles, but strangely, they were aimed at unimportant targets. Bashar al-Assad’s ability to continue using chemical weapons doesn’t appear to have been hindered, nor does that appear to have been Trump’s goal. This was essentially military theater aimed at looking vaguely presidential. And it was an extraordinarily expensive stunt that could have funded some of the programs Trump is insisting we get rid of.
This 2014 Department of Defense report pegs the cost at at $1.59 million per Tomahawk missile, based on its request for 196 missiles at a total of $312.5 million on page 5-14 (link). Various media outlets report different costs for the Tomahawk, some higher, some lower. But if we go with the military’s own report, the 59 Tomahawk missiles deployed in Syria last night – at $1.59 million apiece – cost a total of $93.81 million. The overall operational cost is likely to come in much higher; this represents just the cost to build the missiles involved.
The Donald Trump administration recently announced that it plans to zero out federal funding for Meals on Wheels. According to the official financial statement released by Meals on Wheels for the year 2015 (link), the most recent year available, its total expenses for the year were $7,520,538. That means the $93.81 million cost of the Tomahawk missiles used last night could have fully funded Meals on Wheels national operations for the next twelve years, trough 2029.
However, the federal government only funds a fraction of the Meals on Wheels budget to begin with. According to that same 2015 financial statement (link), just $237,252 came from “Government grants.” So the Tomahawk missiles used in Syria last night could have covered the government’s annual contribution to Meals on Wheels for the next four hundred years.
As I’ve explained elsewhere (link), the evidence suggests that last night’s U.S. attack in Syria was mere coordinated military theater between Trump and Russia, aimed at boosting Trump’s approval rating and allowing him to claim not to be a Russian puppet, while doing nothing to impede Assad’s ability to continue his chemical attacks. When you attack an air force base but don’t bother to blow up the airstrips, you’re not attempting that base out of business.
So when I conclude that the cost of the Syria attack could have fully funded Meals on Wheels through the year 2029, and could have covered the government’s annual contribution to Meals on Wheels through the year 2417, I’m not attempting to compare the merits of legitimate military action with the merits of feeding seniors. The Syria attack was not legitimate military action, so the money was squandered on Trump’s personal political gain and nothing more. That’s something to keep in mind as he claims the need to eliminate federal funding for Meals on Wheels and other such projects. Contribute to Palmer Report
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report