Homeland budget clears House panel

A House subcommittee on June 12 approved a $29.4 billion budget for fiscal 2004 for the Homeland Security Department that includes more money for first responders, high-threat areas and airline passenger screening.

The bill, approved by the House Appropriations Committee's Homeland Security Subcommittee, is $1.04 billion more than President Bush's proposal and $535 million more than the fiscal 2003 budget. More than $4.4 billion is earmarked for first responders, an increase of $888 million from the amount Bush proposed.

"The bill recognizes that, while DHS has the led in developing our national homeland security strategy, implementation of the strategy requires the active participation of state and local governments and the private sector," said Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), the subcommittee's chairman.

Among the highlights:

* $9 billion for border protection, including $2 billion for the Coast Guard's homeland security activities.

* $5.2 billion for the Transportation Security Administration, including help for cargo, intercity bus and transit security, and $1.67 billion for passenger screening.

* $5.6 billion over 10 years to encourage commercial development and production of medical countermeasures against bioterrorism, including $890 million that would be available in fiscal 2004.

* $500 million for high-threat, high-density urban areas.

The appropriations bill now goes to the full committee and the Senate, a process likely to take months, before the budget is finalized.

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