- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 4, 2003

President Bush yesterday recommended a significant increase in homeland-security spending to prevent terrorist attacks in the United States.
Mr. Bush's fiscal 2004 budget for the new Homeland Security Department is $36.2 billion, but the administration is asking Congress for an additional $5.1 billion for domestic security still handled by other departments, including the Defense Department.
The cost for combining agencies to form the Homeland Security Department will rise 60 percent from its first funding of $14.1 billion following the September 11 terrorist attacks.
"Securing the American homeland presents hurdles of monumental scale and complexity, but the federal government has no more important mission," the administration said in its budget request.
The new department is combining 22 agencies and nearly 180,000 employees into four organizations: Border and Transportation Security; Emergency Preparedness and Response; Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection; and Science and Technology.
"The president has requested a budget which reflects his continuing and his very clear commitment to standing behind the priorities and the mission of the new Department of Homeland Security … and to protecting our citizens and our way of life," said Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.
Democrats criticized the budget, saying Mr. Bush shortchanged funding for several programs, including homeland security.
"Better security won't come from wishful thinking or tough talk," said Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat. "It demands a genuine commitment from Washington to make our country safer."
Added Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat: "He skimps on police officers, firefighters and border patrols, while giving huge tax cuts to the very wealthy."
Training and equipment for nearly 3 million first responders throughout the country will cost $3.5 billion. That includes $500 million for firefighting grants, $500 million for state and local law-enforcement terrorism prevention, and $181 million for the Citizen Corps.
Mr. Ridge dismissed the criticism and said, "It's fashionable in this town to say, 'How much money are you going to spend?'"
The administration is focused on building a foundation that will measure success by outcome rather than by how much is spent, the secretary said.
"Some people in this town might think you construct a 10-story building by starting on the 10th floor," Mr. Ridge said.
The new department is charged with reducing the country's vulnerability to terrorism, minimizing damage from attacks and aiding in recovery.
Funding to develop information technology (IT) rose to $59 million, up from $53 million in current spending. The new spending "is planned to support homeland security and the war on terrorism" and will consolidate technology.
"This investment continues to make the federal government the largest buyer of information technology in the world, and agencies are deriving better value from IT," according to the budget's analytical perspectives.
The budget includes $500 million to protect the nation's critical infrastructure, including nuclear-power plants, water facilities and telecommunication networks.
New funding for research for projects including nuclear and bioterrorism detection will cost $350 million.
Border security funding is set at $373 million and will include machines to detect radiation in cargo containers.

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