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U.S.: Bush's 2005 Budget Concentrates On Security Spending Rather Than Domestic Programs

  • Don Hill

The $2.4 trillion budget that U.S. President George W. Bush sent to Congress yesterday includes a 7 percent increase in defense spending. This does not include an anticipated $50 billion supplementary appropriation for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. As RFE/RL reports, the new budget represents a departure from usual election-year spending proposals.

Washington, 3 February 2004 (RFE/RL) -- President George W. Bush sent a budget to Congress yesterday for the fiscal year 2005 whose numbers tower so high they are almost incomprehensible -- $2.4 trillion.

It includes more than $400 billion for military spending -- up 7 percent from the previous year's budget. The White House also is looking to increase spending on domestic security programs by almost 10 percent -- to $30.5 billion.

As "The New York Times" notes today, Bush's budget underscores the degree to which the administration's policy and political focus are on fighting terrorism and building up the military -- to the detriment of domestic programs, many of which are being cut.

In his weekly radio address on 31 January, Bush said his budget addresses the security concerns necessitated by the war on terrorism. "Given the continued terrorist threat against the American people, my budget nearly triples homeland security spending over 2001 levels, including an increase of nearly 10 percent next year, to $30.5 billion," he said. "This money will help tighten security at our borders, airports, and seaports, and improve our defenses against biological attack. I'm proposing to raise the budget for the [Federal Bureau of Investigation] FBI by 11 percent, including a $357 million increase in spending on counterterrorism activities. America will not let its guard down in our war on terror."

The budget also contains a projected deficit of some $500 billion. Bush told his cabinet yesterday that the budget is so severely off balance because of a recession inherited from the previous Democratic administration and the war on terrorism. "I am confident our budget addresses a very serious situation and that is that we are at war and we had dealt with a recession and our budget is able to address those significant factors in a way that reduces the [federal budget] deficit in half," he said. He said he expects to cut the deficit in half in five years by bringing what he called "fiscal discipline to the appropriations process."

Bush's budget does not include what officials of the Bush administration already anticipate will be a request for up to $50 billion more in what is called a "supplemental appropriation" for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Undersecretary of Defense Dov Zakheim -- who briefed reporters on the defense budget yesterday -- says that will come later. "We don't anticipate another supplemental in the calendar year -- and I emphasize 'this calendar year,'" he said. "We are working to finance all our incremental costs within the money that Congress has already given for fiscal year '04. Getting up to fiscal year '05, we'll do what is called 'cash flow.' We'll use the resources we have until we get a supplemental, which we anticipate getting in the next calendar year."

Fiscal year, in U.S. government terms, refers to October through the following September. The budget submitted yesterday is for the 2005 fiscal year -- from October 2004 through September 2005. The calendar year, of course, is January through December. A "supplemental" request in the next calendar year will come after the November 2004 presidential and congressional elections.

It is a foregone conclusion that congressional debate will alter the figures in the final budget, although defense spending is not likely to be challenged. Members of the opposition Democratic Party have attacked the budget for the more than $1 trillion in additional tax cuts that Bush is seeking over the next 10 years, and for what opposition lawmakers say are harmful policy choices.

Senator Kent Conrad, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee, said: "We're on a course that takes us toward the fiscal cliff. This course cannot be sustained."
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