Homeland budget at $41.3 billion

President Bush plans to ask Congress next week for $41.3 billion in the fiscal 2004 budget for domestic homeland security programs, including $36.2 billion for the new Homeland Security Department.

Tom Ridge, the department's new secretary, told a gathering in Miami Jan. 30 that the money would ensure that America is ready to "answer every danger and every enemy that threatens the American people."

"This year [Bush] requested $41.3 billion, the highest total ever proposed by any administration for homeland security," Ridge said.

But in the opening volley of what is expected to be a long and difficult battle over funding the new department, Democrats on Capitol Hill say the administration is still shortchanging homeland security initiatives.

"This doesn't come close to the investment experts say is needed to address glaring vulnerabilities in our homeland defenses," said Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.).

"Numerous authorities have warned that we are as vulnerable to terrorist attack today as we were a year ago, and that a dramatic new flow of resources is needed," he added.

Lieberman said the administration continues its "dangerous pattern" of shortchanging homeland security spending.

Last year, Lieberman said that the administration allowed homeland programs to "limp along" without promised budget increases. And during the recent Senate debate for the fiscal 2003 budget, Republicans opposed Democratic efforts to add $5 billion for homeland security spending.

The new department will merge all or parts of 22 existing federal agencies into one streamlined operation, using money from the agencies to help finance it.

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