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More Money Coming Coast Guard's Way for Homeland Security

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 21, 2003 – Before testifying before the House Subcommittee on Appropriations March 20, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said, "our thoughts and prayers are with the men and women overseas fighting in the latest front in the global war on terrorism to protect all Americans and make the world a safer place."

However, for Ridge, that "global war" extends to the United States. And Thursday, the man, who for the past 18 months has headed the federal homeland security effort, visited Capitol Hill to discuss the part of President Bush's fiscal 2004 budget aimed at making people feel safe here at home.

Earlier this week, Ridge announced the implementation of Operation Liberty Shield, a comprehensive national plan that combines city, state and the private sector to thwart terrorist attacks in the United States.

A major player in that plan is the Coast Guard, which estimates it needs $4 billion a year to protect U.S. commercial ports over the next 10 years. In recent weeks, the service has increased patrols and monitoring of maritime activity along the nation's waterways.

In the president's budget request, Ridge said, $6.8 billion has been appropriated for the Coast Guard, a 10 percent increase over fiscal 2003. He said the funding would support "continued and enhanced operations" across a "broad portfolio of absolutely indispensable missions."

He said the Coast Guard received what he believes to be the "largest increase in a couple of decades" so the service can recruit about 2,000 people and acquire additional equipment needed for its expanded homeland security responsibilities.

"They are pretty talented, but they needed more people and they needed to purchase more equipment. And through the deepwater acquisition, plus a 10 percent increase, they move down that path to do both," he said.

"It enables the Coast Guard to grow to meet its ever-increasing security responsibilities while at the same time sustaining operational excellence in nonsecurity functions," he testified.

Among other budget requests is $18.1 billion for border and transportation security; $3.5 billion to strengthen the readiness capabilities of state and local governments; and $6 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency for emergency preparedness and response.

In addition, Ridge said the president's budget calls for investment in America's pharmaceutical and vaccine stockpiles to include $1 billion for Project BioShield, a program to develop new and better drugs and vaccines to protect Americans from the threat of bioterrorism.

The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services will get $1.8 billion, including $500 million aimed at reducing the backlog of applications, and ensuring a six-month process standard for all applications.

Ridge said the Department of Homeland Security supports the president's national strategy for homeland defense and that his department has "begun the first steps" in the critical work of protecting the nation.

"While much has been accomplished, there is clearly much more work to do," he said. "This budget will provide the resources to enable the Department to manage its responsibilities and lead the effort to make our country safer and more secure."

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