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Does the U.S. have room in the budget for a no-fly zone?

A staff member unpacks copies of President Obama's FY2011 Budget at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C.

STEVE CHIOTAKIS Tonight, President Obama will address the nation on the U.S. actions in Libya. American forces have been participating in a coalition air assault enforcing a no-fly zone there. There are political and legislative worries and Congress is concerned about the amount of money the effort's costing. We continue our coverage of the changing economic landscape of north Africa and the Mideast.

Lawrence Korb served as Assistant Defense Secretary under Ronald Reagan and is a senior fellow at the liberal think tank the Center for American Progress. Good morning sir.

LAWRENCE KORB: Good morning.

CHIOTAKIS: Does the budget have the flexibility for an operation like this?

KORB: It has more than flexibility. If you go back and you take a look at the bombing of Kosovo, the bombing of Bosnia or even the no-fly zone in Iraq for ten years, we never spent more than about $2.5 billion. And in a Pentagon baseline budget, that's over $550 billion -- we have more than enough flexibility.

CHIOTAKIS: How is the president going to explain the cost of this to the nation, especially when there's such a contentious budget debate going on?

KORB: Well, I think he has to point out that in terms of previous operations, for example, in t, we did 75 percent of the bombing. Here we're going to probably be below 50 percent. Even that is not a complete extra cost, because planes fly every month just to keep the pilots in proficiency, we conduct exercises. The ships were already in the Mediterranean, so I think he can point out that this is not going to be overly expensive, certainly compared to Iraq and Afghanistan. And others are going to shoulder much of the burden.

CHIOTAKIS: Lawrence Korb is former Assistant Defense Secretary, and a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. Mr. Korb, thanks.

KORB: Thank you.

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