President Bush is seeking $11 million to beef up security at America's borders. Friends and family mourn a female Marine whose plane crashed in Pakistan. The father of a Sept. 11 victim offers thanks to the Marine.
Bush Wants $11 Billion for Secure Borders
P O R T L A N D, Maine, Jan. 25 — President Bush said today he will ask Congress to spend roughly $11 billion next year on securing the nation's borders to keep out terrorists who would try to attack the United States by air, land or sea.
He promised that U.S. officials will be on special lookout for foreign nationals who have overstayed student visas, "to make sure they're not part of some al Qaeda network that wants to hit the United States."
"We're looking, we're listening, we're following every single lead," he said.
The president visited Portland today to announce plans to seek $10.7 billion in next year's budget for border security, an increase of $2.1 billion over this year.
Bush toured the Coast Guard cutter Tahoma, which raced from Rhode Island to New York Harbor to conduct ship inspections and control sea traffic after the Sept. 11 attacks.
He said the Coast Guard will get its largest budget increase in years, praising its personnel as "a fine group of people who don't get nearly as much appreciation from the American people as they should."
The Tahoma arrived just before midnight on Sept. 11 and remained there through Oct. 22, its crew often on 24-hour alert.
Today, it was docked proudly in the International Marine Terminal here and, as Bush stepped aboard, the ship's bell rang three times and a booming voice announced: "United States arriving!" It was much the same when Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta entered just behind Bush: "Transportation arriving!"
The president donned a blue USCGC Tahoma cap, and listened as Commander Gary M. Smialek described how the Tahoma "sped flank speed to New York City" to patrol the closed harbor and secure bridges near the Statue of Liberty and the Ground Zero perimeter. "We didn't know what the threat was," Smialek said.
In the ship's mess hall, Bush thanked Coast Guard personnel for serving their country. He said of the military mission in Afghanistan, "We're winning but we got a lot to do."
After leaving Portland, Bush was heading to Camp David for the weekend. Twenty House and Senate Republicans were to join him there for an overnight legislative strategy session — and to watch Black Hawk Down, a new film about the U.S. military mission in Somalia that went awry, said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.
The border security funds are part of a $38 billion homeland security package that Bush announced Thursday. The money will be used to create "a seamless air, land and sea border" that weeds out terrorist threats without clogging the free flow of goods and people between countries, the White House said.
Bush also will seek a $1.2 billion increase for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, so more agents and inspectors can be hired to focus on the border with Canada. Work on tightening that border already is under way; Bush's homeland security director Tom Ridge reached an agreement in December with Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Manley.
The INS also will able to launch a tracking system to monitor arrivals and departures by non-U.S. citizens.