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U.S.: Foreign Aid Down As Defense Spending Soars

Since the terrorist attacks of 11 September, America's spending priorities have changed dramatically. President George W. Bush has proposed a budget for the federal government in fiscal year 2003 that greatly increases spending on the country's armed forces and the security of the nation's borders. These increases, coupled with a recent reduction in tax rates, translate into less spending in other areas, including foreign aid.

Washington, 5 February 2002 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President George W. Bush submitted a budget proposal to Congress on 4 February that would provide large increases for the nation's armed forces and homeland defense. These gains are offset by cuts in other areas, including foreign aid.

Bush's proposed budget for fiscal year 2003, which begins next 1 October, would total $2.12 trillion. That includes an increase of $48 billion for the Defense Department and a doubling of homeland security spending to $37.7 billion.

These increases in defense and security are to prevent a recurrence of the 11 September attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, and to fund the campaign that Bush is waging against international terrorism.

Many domestic American programs that Bush considers inefficient would see cuts in funding, and aid to foreign countries would also be reduced.

Spending on Eastern European and the Baltic States would be cut from $621 million in the current fiscal year to $495 million in 2003. Assistance to nations of the Commonwealth of Independent States would fall from $784 million this year to $755 million next year.

A breakdown of how much money will be allotted to each country will not be available until the White House and Congress refine the budget. Under the current budget, for fiscal 2002, Ukraine receives $154 million, and Armenia and Georgia get $90 million each.

Although the amount of aid to be given to Russia next year has not been set, Bush's budget proposal says that 60 percent of the total amount would be withheld unless Moscow ends technical assistance to Iran's nuclear power program and ballistic missile research. The amount also would be withheld unless Russia provides international humanitarian programs full access to civilian victims of the war in Chechnya.

Final congressional approval is expected sometime this autumn. Until then, legislators will go over every line of Bush's budget proposal to arrive at the final figures, including country-by-country breakdowns of foreign aid.

Members of Congress are not expected to resist Bush's calls for increased spending on the armed forces and domestic security. But some are expected to challenge his spending proposals in other areas.

Last year, Bush, a member of the Republican Party, persuaded Congress to pass legislation that would reduce tax revenues by $1.35 trillion over a decade. The president is now proposing tax cuts that would reduce revenues by an additional $591 billion during the same period.

But the existing tax cuts -- plus lower overall revenue because of the current economic recession -- have led to a deficit in the federal budget after four consecutive years of surpluses. Bush's opponents in Congress, members of the Democratic Party, say the president is doing a disservice to the American economy by trying to cut taxes even further when military and other security demands call for much greater spending.

Some Democrats in Congress also complain that the deficit will be paid from the current surplus in the fund for Social Security, the American government program that mostly benefits retired people.