Malaysian Airliner Search. Who's Paying For It?

I was just wondering, since it seems so many countries are looking for it. Does each individual country just foot the bill? I know it’s for a good cause, but when I hear things like, the US could just dispatch a few ships from Diego Garcia into Australian waters and be there in a day or so, it makes me think the cost of this must be getting to be quite a bit.

Also as an aside, who pays for the lawsuits? Does it matter on whether it was accidental or not. By this i mean if the passenger’s families sue, does it matter whether it was an accident (fire), on purpose (suicide) or terrorist?

  1. Taxpayers.

  2. Malaysia Airlines (or their insurance carrier) will pay out any wrongful death suits, unless they can pass the blame elsewhere.

A lot of this money is going to be spent anyway, so it’s not a big deal to divert a ship to help. For instance, the US has ships at Diego Garcia anyway. We’re paying those sailors and for upkeep on the ship anyway. They’re military, so we don’t have to pay them overtime or anything. Diverting the ship from regular patrols or minor maintenance costs little extra beyond some amount of fuel.

That’s like saying when the plumber sends his assistant to your house to fix a leak, you shouldn’t have to pay for labor because he was going to have to pay the assistant regardless of whether there was a job to do. Actually, the plumber hired the assistant with the expectation that there will be enough work to justify the cost of the employee, and has to pass that cost on to the customer.

Ideally, the government decides how much money to spend on the military based on anticipated demand. Part of this is search-and-rescue missions. If the military got out of this business, the government could reduce the budget accordingly. Now, I know that budgeting is based on political considerations, not just on rational analysis. Still, the military budget does respond to perceived need - for example, the U.S. military budget was cut significantly when the cold war ended, and it increased after 9/11.

It is probably in the best interests of most countries, including the US taxpayers, to spend the money and try to figure out what happened. If it was a hijacking then information could be gleaned to help prevent further occurrences. If it was a mechanical failure than you can engineer a fix to prevent another jet going down.

Even though the search could cost several millions, the countries involved have budgets magnitudes larger and can easily afford it.

Also - searching for the plane is the humanitarian thing to do and can build goodwill among other countries.

Right, for all those reasons, finding the plane is universally considered the right thing to do.

The Pentagon announced today that the U.S. has spent $2.5 million so far in the search. Probably a drop in the bucket in the end.

The military vs. plumber analogy isn’t a perfect one, since militaries spend money to keep themselves in a state of readiness, not primarily to perform rescue missions. The plumber would fire his assistant and look for a new career if there was no plumbing to do, but militaries would still exist even if there was never anyone to rescue. If searching for this missing jet is as good training as the exercises they would otherwise be doing, then it could reasonably said not to cost the taxpayers anything.

For the US military this is also a good training mission. Finding something as small as passenger jet wreckage in a vast body of water would be ideal practice for naval units searching submarines and underwater obstacles in remote areas.

In that respect, this undertaking really almost “pays” for itself.