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Hidden defense costs add up to double trouble

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There are more hidden defense costs. Higgs includes some $4 billion in "foreign military financing" plus other foreign aid made with defense goals, rather than economic development, in mind. For example, the US offered Turkey $6 billion to defray the cost of an Iraq war if American troops were allowed to pass through the nation - a deal the Turkish parliament rejected.

Higgs estimates the State Department and international assistance programs "arguably related" to defense add at least $17.6 billion to defense costs.

Other defense-related costs include care of veterans - hospitals, nursing homes, disability payments, pensions, etc. The Bush budget calls for $67.3 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2005.

Another cost Higgs sees as a matter of defense is the Department of Homeland Security. Bush wants $31 billion allocated here next year.

The largest item noted by Higgs is interest on the national debt related to defense spending. Higgs calculates that the proportional amount for every year from 1916 - when the debt was nearly zero - through 2002 comes to 81 percent of the total debt held by the public. The interest charges he attributes to defense came to $138.7 billion in 2002.

With many numbers still unavailable, Higgs hasn't finished his calculations for fiscal 2004. But doubling the DoD budget request won't overstate the truth by much, he says.

The unwillingness of the Bush administration to ask Congress for extra money for Iraq will have "real consequences," says Winslow Wheeler, a visiting fellow at the Center for Defense Information. To cover additional costs, DoD will "raid" its operations and maintenance accounts. He says that will mean less training for troops and poorer maintenance of military equipment.

Some troops in Iraq lack sufficient body armor and equipment needed to storm buildings, says Mr. Hellman. Soldiers have also reportedly asked families to buy expensive night-vision goggles for them.

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