Bush proposes more cash for homeland security
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In an effort to bolster Americans' faith in local police, fire and rescue personnel, President Bush on Thursday announced to a gathering of mayors his plan to nearly double spending on homeland security to $37.7 billion.
"I'm going to Congress next Tuesday to deliver the State of Union, to lay out my priorities," the president said. "One of the first priorities is to fight and win this war. The second priority, which will be reflected in my budget, is making sure we protect the people at home."
The request, which Congress must approve, seeks an additional $18.2 billion, representing almost a doubling of the $19.5 billion the federal government spent this year to make states and cities safer. If approved, the money would be available during the next fiscal year, which begins October 1.
"We have a new problem to solve -- the security of our homeland," Bush said at a White House gathering of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, whose members represent 1,100 cities. "It's a national threat so it's a federal responsibility."
The $37.7 billion proposal includes $3.5 billion in federal aid for so-called "first responders" -- those state and local agencies that are first in the line of defense -- including fire, police, medical and rescue personnel.
"It is the beginning of a homeland defense that is going to last," said the president, who added that the Federal Emergency Management Agency under Director Joe Allbaugh would oversee the first-responder programs.
The funds would flow from Washington in the form of categorical grants, meaning they would have to be used to purchase new equipment, train personnel or otherwise enhance first-responder capabilities, White House budget director Mitch Daniels said.
Initial responses from the nation's mayors were positive to Bush's proposal. Several mayors said after a meeting with the president that they are pleased that FEMA and Allbaugh would be their point of contact with the federal government.
"Today is a giant step forward," said New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial, president of the Conference of Mayors. "The president heard us and responded."
Minnetonka, Minnesota, Mayor Karen Anderson, president of the National League of Cities, said the Bush administration is making an earnest effort to supply the needs of local governments in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Governors and mayors have been lobbying Washington for more aid to help them prepare for terrorist attacks.
CNN White House correspondent Major Garrett contributed to this report.
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