Tags: Homeland | Security | Budget: | $38 | Billion

Homeland Security Budget: $38 Billion

Monday, 04 February 2002 12:00 AM

Bush administration officials said they largely abandoned the spending discipline they had previously pursued with religious zeal in the name of speed and need as they lashed together an unprecedented $38 billion proposal to fund homeland security.

Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said the White House either accepted or even added to every single homeland security request from the federal agencies as the budget proposal was under construction.

"The numbers went up," Ridge said.

Along with a massive $48 billion increase in defense spending, the homeland security boost creates a huge bubble on the Bush budget that will push the federal government into a deficit for several years.

Ridge said White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels refocused his thrifty vision on the rest of the domestic budget, which Bush has now proposed limiting to 2 percent growth, stingy by Washington's ever-bloating spend-happy standards.

"The federal government is not a particularly well-managed enterprise," Daniels said. "This is a budget to win a two-front war ... One of the biggest increases in this budget will be money flowing to the states for homeland security."

The spending plan calls for doubling money for homeland security and envisions freshly equipped firemen and other "first responders," a well-coordinated network of hospitals and laboratories ready for a biological attack, a new army of agents patrolling the Canadian border and a high-tech government computer network to share vital threat data. "In this war, our first priority must be the security of our homeland," Bush writes in his message to Congress that accompanies the four volumes of phonebook-sized budget documents detailing $2.12 trillion in proposed spending.

The budget calls for $4.8 billion in government spending to improve aviation security by the hiring of 30,000 government employees to screen passengers and baggage, among other things. It is a 210 percent increase in aviation security spending through the new Transportation Security Administration.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is a clear winner, run by longtime Bush ally Joe M. Allbaugh. FEMA will dole out $3.5 billion in grants to states and local governments to improve first responders' capabilities. The White House even decided to move the entire Office of National Preparedness, responsible for coordinating all federal government activities to respond to weapons of mass destruction, to FEMA from the Department of Justice.

"That is a very significant programmatic change," Ridge said.

FEMA will also be in charge of new regiments of Homeland Security Corps volunteers, modeled after the Peace Corps but focused on domestic security missions.

Hospitals would get nearly $600 million for "decontamination facilities" and new communications equipment to respond to a chemical or biological attack. The budget would target another $2.4 billion to conduct research on bioterrorism. The National Institutes of Health would get $1.7 billion alone to work on new vaccines to respond to an attack.

Hundreds of millions would go toward securing the borders with Mexico and Canada, intended to double the number of border agents on the northern border in particular. Bush wants $380 million to help create an electronic entry and exit system to track arrivals and departures that would be in place before 2005. Three of the hijackers involved in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks had illegally overstayed their visas.

The budget also is designed to help reduce what critics have said is the lack of systems or protocol that would allow a raft of government agencies at the federal, state and local level to share potentially vital information that could prevent another attack. Bush would spend $722 million next year on high-tech improvements to link the disparate organizations.

But even the massive $18 billion increase in spending has raised eyebrows. The Bush administration has reconfigured spending on non-federal law enforcement programs that has law enforcement officials and mayors worried.

The Justice Department has combined what has historically been around $1 billion in local law enforcement grants and lowered spending on those grants to around $800 million. The administration has also proposed cutting spending that will reach a popular program, dubbed COPS, designed to get 100,000 new police officers on the streets. That program has resulted in the hiring of almost 75,000 police officers already, according to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"We are ... extremely concerned about proposed cuts or efforts to redesign existing, effective local law enforcement initiatives, including the COPS and Local Law Enforcement Block Grant Programs," said U.S. Conference of Mayors President and New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial, a Democrat.

Greg Voegtlin, legislative council at the International Association of Chiefs of Police, said police officers hope they will receive a good portion of the $3.5 billion FEMA will dole out to make up for cut programs.

"We have seen numbers that indicate a decrease in state and local law enforcement grant programs,” Voegtlin said. "That worries us."

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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Bush administration officials said they largely abandoned the spending discipline they had previously pursued with religious zeal in the name of speed and need as they lashed together an unprecedented $38 billion proposal to fund homeland security. Homeland Security...
Monday, 04 February 2002 12:00 AM
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