President Bush’s first budget since the September 11 attacks calls for devoting $38 billion to homeland defense a sum that nearly doubles the amount spent prior to last fall.
“The threat of mass-destruction terrorism has become a reality of life in the 21st century,” the document states. It addresses glaring American “characteristics” that “make us vulnerable to terrorism of catastrophic proportions.”
The president wants $406 million for increased port security and $5.7 billion in funds for the sorely underfunded Coast Guard, whose role is being expanded.
Mr. Bush designates $3.5 billion for “first responders,” meaning state and local fire and rescue teams. And there is $4.8 billion for the new Transportation Security Administration, the agency responsible for security screening at airports.
The 2003 budget devotes $106 billion to border control for targeting “illegal traffic while welcoming legitimate travelers.” The money would allow a doubling of the Border Patrol and inspectors on the northern border, which the budget document calls “an attractive route for potential terrorists.”
“I support the magnitude of the increase. And I think the amount requested for bioterrorism is right. But I’m not sure the requests for border agencies like the Coast Guard are adequate. I think the Coast Guard alone could use a billion and a half more for a larger shallow-water fleet,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a Brookings Institution security policy analyst.
Jack Spencer, the Heritage Foundation’s homeland security specialist, said: “There’s a lot of money here a lot of needed spending. I like how the president has assigned dollars to equipping and training first responders. That will be expensive. There are significant funds for bioterrorism, and that’s broken down into things like early detection that’s very important.”
In general, the homeland defense budget addresses what the White House has designated as four primary missions:
Training and equipping state and local firemen and rescue teams.
Bolstering defenses against biological attacks.
Toughening border control.
Creating a comprehensive and secure system for sharing relevant threat and crisis data across jurisdictional lines to all agencies invovled in homeland security.
But as the budget document states: “The task of homeland security is extraordinarily broad [and] the national strategy therefore will go well beyond these four missions.”
The president has earmarked $5.9 billion to deal with bioterrorism. Some $1.2 billion of that would go toward increasing the capacity of state and local health facilities. The lion’s share $591 million of the state-local money would pay for improved communications systems, decontamination facilities and, among other things, training exercises.
Some $851 million would be utilized to improve federal stockpiles of antibiotics and chemical antidotes for treating victims of germ attacks, and $392 million would go toward developing detection equipment and quick-reaction communication facilities.
“The budget includes $202 million to create a national information management system that links emergency medical responders with public health officials, enables early warning information to be distributed quickly and permits health care providers to share diagnostic and treatment information and facilities,” the budget explains.
The president wants open but secure borders.
To achieve that, he has called for devoting $380 million for building a reliable, high-tech method of tracking the entry and exit of immigrants and for making the passports and other documents of North American nations computer compatible.