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Bush Signs Defense Bill, Says 'Nation Faces New Dangers'

By Kathleen T. Rhem
National Guard Bureau

WASHINGTON, Oct. 23, 2002 – President Bush signed the fiscal 2003 Defense Appropriations and Military Construction Appropriations acts into law today in a White House ceremony.

The president noted the security of the American people is the first commitment of the American government. "Our nation faces grave new dangers, and our nation must fully support the men and women of our military who confront these dangers on our behalf," Bush said in remarks before signing the two bills.

Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the military service chiefs and senior enlisted advisers, several congressmen and other politicians and leaders were on hand to witness the president's signature. The fiscal 2003 defense appropriation of $355 billion reflects a $37 billion increase over fiscal 2002 spending.

"Since September the 11th, Americans have been reminded that the safety of many depends on the courage and skill of a few. We've asked our military to bring justice to agents of terror. We've asked our military to liberate a captive people on the other side of the earth," Bush said, in explaining the increase. "We've asked our military to prepare for conflict in Iraq, if it proves necessary. We're asking young Americans to serve in many places far from home, and at great risk.

"We owe them every resource, every weapon and every tool they need to fulfill their missions," he said. "The best military in the world must have every advantage required to defend the peace of the world."

Bush said the legislation matches "increased funding with clear priorities." It provides for a 4.1 percent pay raise for service members, increases in full-time support positions for the reserve components, and continues to reduce out-of-pocket housing expenses for service members not living on military bases.

It also increases operations and maintenance funds by more than $5 billion and adds $11 billion over last year's budget for weapons procurement, bringing that total to $72 billion.

"Today's American forces are ready and able to deploy to any point in the globe to defeat any foe," Bush said. "We're going to keep it that way."

The act also includes $58 billion for research and development of "the next generations of weaponry that will win battles in the future."

Defense officials said the separate $10.5 billion Military Construction Appropriations Act includes $4.21 billion for maintenance and improvements to existing family housing units and for building new ones; $1.2 billion for barracks; $18 million for child development centers; and $151 million for hospitals and other medical facilities. The act also marks $799 million for anti-terrorism and force protection improvements to facilities.

"We want the people who wear the uniform to know America appreciates their service," the president said.

To much applause, Bush said the new acts should send "a clear signal to friend and foe alike that it doesn't matter how long it takes to defend our freedom, the United States of America will stay the course."

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