Anti-terror bills march forward

Congress is moving forward to put money and muscle behind programs to fight terrorism and protect the homeland.

The House passed a bill early this morning to provide $29 billion to fight terrorism at home and abroad. Billions would be showered on information technology projects to tighten security systems and fund such tools as devices that detect explosives at airports. The Senate is considering a bill with even more money — $31 billion.

The money is the second installment of anti-terrorism funding in fiscal 2002 since the Sept. 11 attacks. Late last year, lawmakers approved $40 billion for fiscal 2002. Lawmakers are working on other spending packages for fiscal 2003.

The House approved several other anti-terrorism measures, which still await Senate action, including:

* Approving a bioterrorism package that would give authorities more clout in preparations for and responding to public health emergencies.

* Authorizing $9.1 billion for the Customs Service to purchase and deploy anti-terrorism detection equipment along the Canadian and Mexican borders.

* Authorizing $100 million for the Department of Veterans Affairs to develop four new research centers, with at least one focused on biological terrorism, one on chemical and one on radiological threats.

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