Cost of battle: $60 billion
WASHINGTON (AP) – Congress has provided more than $60 billion since September to combat terrorism at home and abroad and to rebuild from the attacks on New York and Washington. That’s roughly five times what the nation spent to fight terrorism in the previous year.
Some costs are one-time expenses or will diminish in coming years – like helping communities recover from the Sept. 11 devastation, but other anti-terrorism programs are sure to grow.
When he sends Congress his $2 trillion budget for fiscal 2003 next month, President Bush is expected to propose billions more for the military’s $345 billion wartime budget for the rest of this year, plus a hefty increase for next year for government-wide anti-terrorism efforts. Fiscal 2003 begins Oct. 1.
Republican aides on the House Budget Committee estimate that so-called homeland security programs alone – such as hiring FBI agents and stopping bioterrorists – will grow by $150 billion over the next decade. That excludes money for military anti-terrorism operations and for local recovery aid.
Not all of the $60 billion Congress approved will be spent this year. Precise figures remain hazy because of disagreements – sometimes fueled by politics – over what exactly constitutes anti-terrorism spending, and because such activities are often included within broader programs and are not distinct.
”We’re scrambling” to figure out precisely how much was enacted, said spokeswoman Melissa Merson of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
Though but a sliver of the federal budget, $60 billion exceeds the 2000 revenues of all but the dozen largest U.S. corporations, and would buy 3 million cars at $20,000 apiece. It also is five times the $12 billion total for all federal anti-terrorism spending in fiscal 2001, an August White House report said.
Beefing up security at home and hunting Osama bin Laden are hugely popular with the public and members of both parties, assuring that such spending will continue. But that hasn’t stopped political warfare from erupting.
Bush and congressional Democrats clashed last fall over how to divide the first round of spending between defense and domestic programs. With a return of federal deficits imminent, more fights are brewing this election year.
”We have no higher obligation than to defend this country,” said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat. ”But that doesn’t mean we give blank checks to anybody.”
Bush’s budget is expected to propose a $15 billion increase for domestic security programs, everything from protecting nuclear power plants to building up federal vaccine stockpiles. The White House says $34 billion was enacted for such programs for fiscal 2002.
”The president has made this a priority,” said White House budget office spokeswoman Amy Call. ”We’ll fund it at a level that reflects that priority.”
Underlining the political sensitivity of the issue, the Bush administration is broadening its definition of what comprises anti-terrorism spending from a narrower interpretation it used just weeks before the attacks.
An August White House report said Bush requested $12.8 billion for fiscal 2002 for all federal programs aimed at terrorists. Congressional aides from both parties say lawmakers provided roughly that amount in the 13 regular spending bills for the year, plus more in other legislation.
But White House officials are working on a new definition that includes border security, Coast Guard and aviation safety programs they had not counted before. The White House now says homeland security programs alone totaled $25 billion in those 13 bills for 2002.
Democrats say the broader definition lets the White House appear to be spending more money to thwart domestic terrorism, while offering a political shield from cuts to programs it likes. White House officials say the change is simply an updated, more accurate measurement.