The United States has started calculating costs now that the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has entered a new phase. Suffice to say, the global economic leader hinted nothing in this world could ever possibly be cost-free.
"We're not going to pay to perpetually use the equipment on an indefinite basis. Basically from here on out - starting next week or so - they need to pick up the contract," a senior U.S. defence official told Reuters.
Just in the first month of the search, around $44 million was already disbursed. This involved the deployment of military ships and aircraft in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea.
"We're already at tens of millions. Is it worth hundreds of millions?" he said. "I don't know. That's for them to decide."
And on Thursday, investigators were sent to Bay of Bengal to verify the wreckage claims of GeoResonance, visibly drawing the very limited resources away from the focused search that is the southern Indian Ocean where most believe the plane crashed. Bay of Bengal is 5000 kilometres away from the current search area.
Despite retired Chief Air Marshal Angus Houston, chief coordinator of the Joint Agency Coordination Centre, being skeptical of GeoResonance's claims, they cannot prevent the search teams from checking the place.
"It's a public relations thing now," he said. "I think they have to."
"The investigators are going to be hard-pressed to blow this off," Mary Schiavo, a former inspector general for the US Department of Transportation, told CNN. "I think, at this point, because of the lack of results where they've been searching for six weeks, they're almost stuck. They have to go look."
As of Wednesday, Australia has yet to concretize plans and discussions about the economic cost of the search, according to Malaysian Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.
"As it will involve deep-sea searching, it is important to discuss the issue of cost," Mr Hishammuddin had told reporters.
"The discussions will involve all the relevant stakeholders and revolve around issues such as where the search will be conducted and what assets will be deployed."
"Another important issue is who is going to supply the assets which will be necessary to carry out the search," Mr Hishammuddin had said.
But since the U.S. has hinted it will already pass on the costs of providing sophisticated sonar equipment, taxpayers from Australia, China and Malaysia will likely bear the brunt of the financial and logistical burden of the lengthy and expensive search, estimated to cost about US$56 million.