Union Tribune

February 5, 2002

Bush puts budget on war footing
$2.13 trillion plan stresses defense, homeland security


By TOBY ECKERT and OTTO KREISHER 
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE 

WASHINGTON President Bush proposed a $2.13 trillion
budget yesterday that emphasizes defense and homeland
security while sharply cutting other programs, offering new tax
breaks and marking a return to deficit spending at least through
2004.

From its Old Glory cover to the numbers spread across the pages
inside, the blueprint for fiscal year 2003 "recognizes the new
realities confronting our nation," Bush wrote in his budget
message to Congress.

"It is a plan to fight a war we did not seek but a war we are
determined to win."

While embracing the spending for the war on terrorism,
Democrats drew aim at the tax cuts and spending reductions
Bush proposed, previewing his coming struggle with Congress
over the plan.

"The president's budget will put us further into deficit, use
money from the Social Security and Medicare trust funds that
both parties called off-limits, and cut education, health care,
skills training and rural programs," said House Minority Leader
Richard A. Gephardt, D-Mo.

The White House shot back with a defense of the wartime budget and the deficits it projects, including $106 billion for the current fiscal year and $80 billion for 2003.

"Running large surpluses and paying down debt is a very
important objective in this administration," Budget Director
Mitch Daniels told reporters. "But there are two or three things
that come ahead of that goal: defeating terrorism, defending the lives of Americans and getting the economy rolling again."

Overall, spending for fiscal year 2003 which starts Oct. 1
would increase 3.7 percent under Bush's plan. Perhaps a better
measure is the one-third of the budget, $773 billion, that is
non-mandatory spending, which excludes automatic benefits
such as Social Security. The increase in such spending is 8
percent. But factoring out major increases for defense and
homeland security, that increase shrinks to 2 percent for
non-mandatory spending programs.

The budget calls for cuts in numerous areas, including a $9
billion reduction in highway construction spending; a $500
million cut from the Environmental Protection Agency, mostly
from science, technology and core environmental programs;
and the elimination of hundreds of projects proposed by
Congress.

By contrast, the Defense Department budget would jump to
$396 billion, an increase of more than 13 percent and the
biggest percentage jump since 1982. Homeland security
spending would total $37.7 billion, nearly double last year's
level.

Saying his third priority was to stimulate the economy, Bush
proposed tax cuts that would total $591 billion over the next
decade. That includes making the 10-year tax cut enacted last
year permanent; providing rebates of as much as $600 for
low-income Americans; and creating a host of tax credits for
health care, housing and charitable giving.

In justifying the defense spending, Bush and Pentagon officials
cited the cost of the global war on terrorism.

"We're unified in Washington on winning this war," Bush said in a speech at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. "One way to express
our unity is for Congress to set the military budget, the defense
of the United States, as the No. 1 priority and fully fund my
request."

Budget documents attributed $19.4 billion of the $48 billion
increase to the expected cost of the war on terrorism. That
includes a $10 billion contingency fund requested to cover
possible future combat operations.

"If we don't need it, we won't spend it," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said. But, he added, "it's more likely to be too little than too much."

Defense briefing documents also cited $9.4 billion in the new
budget to "strengthen U.S. capabilities for fighting the war
against terrorism." That includes $3 billion for counterterrorism, force protection and homeland security programs; $1.2 billion to continue the combat air patrols over the United States; and funding for additional precision munitions.

The budget also requests $4.6 billion to increase intelligence
capabilities and to improve secure global communications,
which are considered essential for coping with the worldwide
threat of terrorism.

The budget would provide unspecified increases in funding for
special operations forces, including producing four new AC-130
flying gunships, which proved deadly against Taliban and
al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan.

Pentagon officials classified ballistic missile defense, including
the national defense system, as an anti-terrorism program. The
budget requests a total of $7.8 billion the same as for the
current year for a variety of missile defense efforts.

Homeland security spending would cut across more than a
dozen agencies.

Bush asked for nearly $6 billion for bioterrorism preparedness
and response. The spending includes $2.4 billion for research
and the creation of a "safe and reliable" anthrax vaccine; $1.2
billion for hospital and public health system improvements; and
$650 million to stockpile more antibiotics, smallpox vaccine
and chemical antidotes.

And $10.6 billion would go toward border security. Among the
initiatives are creating a state-of-the-art system to track the
arrival and departure of noncitizens; more than doubling the
number of patrol agents and inspectors on the Canadian border;
and increasing the Coast Guard's homeland security budget by
$282 million.

Bush also proposed $722 million for technology initiatives,
including creation of an exclusive wireless communications
network for emergency personnel and development of a system
to warn of attacks on computer systems and the Internet.

Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge told reporters that he
doesn't expect to complete a comprehensive counterterrorism
strategy until midyear. But the budget proposal reflects
priorities that have long been stressed by Congress and
terrorism experts, he told reporters.

"It's a multiyear strategy. This is the initial investment," he
added.

Bush also proposed spending initiatives in a number of other
areas. He called for restoring food stamp eligibility for many
legal immigrants; boosting special education funding to $8.5
billion; adding $1 billion to the Title 1 program for low-income
students; and spending $89 billion over 10 years to help the
elderly buy prescription drugs.

In addition to making the tax cuts enacted last year permanent,
he offered a range of targeted tax credits. The initiatives and
their 10-year costs include: helping low-income Americans pay
for health insurance, $89 billion; encouraging the development
of low-income housing, $15.2 billion; and promoting alternative
energy technologies, including residential solar power and
automobile fuel cells, $9.1 billion.