- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 15, 2003

Top congressional Democrats yesterday accused President Bush of shortchanging domestic-security efforts as the White House announced a barrage of initiatives bent on assuring jittery Americans the federal government has a comprehensive plan.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, flanked by a dozen firefighters at a Capitol Hill news conference, said the administration is making beggars out of the nation's heroes.
"It is shameful that the heroes who rushed to defend the Pentagon and the World Trade Center on September 11th have to come to Washington over and over again, hat in hand, and beg this administration for the resources they need," said Mr. Daschle, South Dakota Demo-crat.
Mr. Bush has requested $41.3 billion for domestic security for fiscal 2004, a 10 percent increase. While the Democratic leaders ridiculed the president's plan, they offered no specific funding levels.
The lawmakers released a copy of a letter they sent to the president, which said: "It is indefensible that you have not made funding for homeland security your top priority."
"Instead, you have advised Americans to buy duct tape, plastic sheeting and bottled water," the pair wrote.
The administration and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge this week advised Americans to prepare emergency kits, including duct tape to seal homes against a chemical or biological weapons attack. Mr. Ridge yesterday said Americans should be vigilant, but there was no need to seal homes now.
The White House, for its part, yesterday deluged reporters with "national strategies" on how to secure cyberspace and ensure "the physical protection of critical infrastructure and key assets."
Mr. Bush also visited the FBI building in Washington to deliver a speech to bureau workers on a new plan to consolidate federal counterterrorism agencies to deal with the "serious and continuing danger of terrorism."
"We're trying to protect you. We're doing everything in our power to make sure the homeland is secure," he said. "Across the world, we are tracking and confronting and defeating international terror. Within our own country, we're taking unprecedented measures to protect the American people."
The White House released a report that advocates increased spending on cyber-security research and a greater degree of coordination between high-tech firms and government agencies such as the FBI that could track down cyber-attacks.
But Democrats said the president is not doing enough. Mr. Daschle and Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, complained that Mr. Bush has failed to provide adequate funding even as he pushes for $1.5 trillion in new tax cuts they say would go mainly to the rich.
Meanwhile, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, a 2004 Democratic presidential hopeful, said Mr. Bush favors the "wallets of the few over the safety of us all."
In a speech at George Washington University, Mr. Lieberman said that "at a minimum," the federal government should invest $16 billion more than Mr. Bush proposed for homeland security, including $7.5 billion more than proposed for local first responders.
"Our borders and ports are too porous, our first responders are undersupported, our infrastructure is underprotected and our supply of vaccines and antidotes is far too limited. We can and must do better," he said.

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