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Bush raps Senate on defense spending

'We must never cut corners'

President Bush gets a tour of Fort Drum from 2nd Brigade Commander Col. Kevin Wilkerson.
President Bush gets a tour of Fort Drum from 2nd Brigade Commander Col. Kevin Wilkerson.  

From Kelly Wallace

FORT DRUM, New York (CNN) -- In a tough-talking pep talk to one of the first divisions to have been deployed to Afghanistan, President Bush pressed the Senate Friday to approve his call for the largest increase in funding for the U.S. military since the Reagan administration.

"Our troops must be well-trained, well-equipped and well-paid in order to fight and win this war," Bush told about 10,000 soldiers and their families. "We must never cut corners when it comes to our national security."

The House of Representatives has passed a $355 billion measure, which is $11.4 billion short of Bush's request for a $48 billion increase. The bill does not include $10 billion for a contingency fund for future war-fighting that Bush wanted. A similar measure has passed the Senate Appropriations Committee, but has not been acted on by the full Senate.

Profile: U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division 

"The House of Representatives responded. The Senate is still delaying," Bush told the crowd, in a speech that was interrupted several times by the Army chant, "Hooahhh."

"The Senate must act so that we can plan the war," Bush said. "The Senate must act and it must act this month on defense appropriations."

Bush praised the work of the some 2,000 soldiers based at Fort Drum who took part in the military campaign in Afghanistan, and the approximately 300 of them who are still there.

"You met the enemy half a world away, in his own element, yet the terrorists discovered no bunker could protect them," the president said. "Darkness couldn't conceal them ... and there was no cave deep enough to save them."

Bush noted how the 10th Mountain Division cleared more than 100 caves used by al Qaeda, took control of more than 500 stockpiles of enemy ammunition and patrolled more than 500 miles of border trails to "block the fleeing enemy."

"In the Afghan campaign, more than 150 soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division were decorated for their noble actions, including one lieutenant colonel who calmly inspired his troops during 18 hours of grenade attacks and withering small arms fire," the president said.

Bush also defended his rejection of a new international war crimes court, due to his concern that members of the armed forces could be prosecuted without having the protection of U.S. laws.

The United States cooperates with many other nations to keep the peace, but will not submit American troops to prosecutors and judges whose jurisdiction the United States does not accept, the president said.

Every person who serves under the American flag will answer to his or her own superiors and to military law, not to the rulings of an unaccountable international criminal court, he added.

Before his speech, the president met with troops and their families and spoke via satellite to some of the members of the 10th Mountain Division still in Afghanistan.

He also looked at charts and maps used by the forces in Afghanistan, and watched a mock helicopter gun raid, as choppers swooped in and Army soldiers deployed.

Afterward, he told the troops, "The enemy made a bad mistake. They didn't understand you all and they didn't understand us. We're after them and we're staying after them until we get everyone of them."

After mingling with the crowd, the president departed for Camp David in the Maryland mountains, where he is to spend the weekend.




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