Bush seeks to increase homeland security fund

He again asks Congress to reauthorize Patriot Act

January 23, 2004|By Rick Pearson | Rick Pearson,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

ROSWELL, N.M. - Seeking to convince the public that significant progress has been made on the nation's war on terrorism, President Bush yesterday said he would ask Congress for a nearly 10 percent increase in funding for homeland security.

"The greatest responsibility of the federal government and my first responsibility as your president is to defend and protect America," Bush told cadets of the New Mexico Military Institute.

In a wide-ranging speech, the president said he was "optimistic" about America's future as he defended his policy of treating countries that harbor terrorists as terrorist states, and again called for Congress to reauthorize the controversial Patriot Act.

"We'll protect the homeland," Bush said, adding, "The best way to protect America, however, is to go on the offensive, stay on the offensive and bring the terrorists to justice."

As he made his remarks, his office released materials announcing that in the fiscal 2005 budget Bush will present next month, the president will seek homeland security funding that is triple what the nation was spending before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Bush's budget plan would call for $30 billion in spending for homeland security across the government, up from $28.2 billion for this fiscal year.

Specifically, the president's budget request would boost counterterrorism funding at the Department of Justice to $2.6 billion, an amount the administration said was 19 percent above this fiscal year's level.

Some of the money will be designated for hiring FBI agents to work on counterterrorism activities, to increase intelligence-gathering efforts by the agency, and to support the multi-agency Terrorist Threat Integration Center, the administration said.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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