Bush calls for expanded federal role at home, abroad
The President noted that the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan had cost the United States about $1 billion a month, and said defense spending must continue at a high level. "Whatever it costs to defend our country, we will pay," Bush said.
To continue waging the war on terror and to take it to other countries who sponsor terrorists, the Defense Department will need to replace aging aircraft, purchase additional precision-guided weapons, and work to make U.S. forces more agile, the President said.
Last week, the Bush administration said its fiscal 2003 budget proposal, which will be unveiled next week, would include $369 billion for the Pentagon. That would be $48 billion higher than in fiscal 2002-the largest defense spending increase in 20 years.
"Our men and women in uniform deserve the best weapons, the best equipment and the best training-and they also deserve another pay raise," Bush said Tuesday night. That is likely to mean a pay hike for civilian federal employees as well. While the Bush administration tried to de-link military and civilian pay in last year's budget negotiations, Congress ultimately maintained the historic link.
Bush also said he would propose nearly doubling the $19.5 billion the federal government was spending on homeland security before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The additional money, he said, would be focused in the areas of bioterrorism, emergency response, airport and border security, and intelligence gathering.
Last week, the President said the Coast Guard, the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Customs Service could expect substantial budget hikes next year to beef up their border security efforts.
Bush also unveiled a proposal to create a new federal volunteer organization, known as the "USA Freedom Corps." The new organization would build on the efforts of the AmeriCorps and Senior Corps national service programs, aiming to swell the ranks of volunteers to more than 200,000 people. Bush also pledged to double the size of the Peace Corps over the next five years and asked the organization to encourage developmental and educational activities in the Islamic world.
All of the new initiatives would result in a budget deficit of more than $100 billion next year, Bush said. But the deficit would be "small and short term so long as Congress restrains spending and acts in a fiscally responsible manner," he added.