Bush Administration Unveils 2003 Budget

By Cat Lazaroff

WASHINGTON, DC, February 4, 2002 (ENS) - President George W. Bush has released his fiscal year 2003 budget, dramatically boosting military spending and slashing domestic programs. The $2.13 trillion spending plan represents 3.7 percent increase over the current year, but includes cuts in numerous programs, including conservation spending.

The budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins October 1, includes a $48 billion raise for defense programs - the largest such increase in almost 20 years. Homeland security, a major budget priority since the terrorist attacks of September 11, would receive $37.7 billion, almost twice the budget for such programs last year.


President Bush called today for massive increases in military spending (Photo courtesy The White House)
"My budget provides the resources to combat terrorism at home, to protect our people, and preserve our constitutional freedoms," Bush said in releasing the budget. "Our new Office of Homeland Security will coordinate the efforts of the federal government, the 50 states, the territories, the District of Columbia, and hundreds of local governments: all to produce a comprehensive and far reaching plan for securing America against terrorist attack."

The Bush plan includes billions of dollars to combat bioterrorism through research, improvements to hospitals and public health systems, stockpiling vaccines and antibiotics, and protection against natural disease outbreaks.

Despite a five fold reduction in the project 10 year budget surplus - from $5.6 trillion to $1 trillion - President Bush also proposes to make his $1.35 trillion, 10 year tax cut plan, passed last summer, a permanent budget fixture.

"By curtailing unsuccessful programs and moderating the growth of spending in the rest of government," Bush said, "we can well afford to fight terrorism, take action to restore economic growth, and offer substantial increases in spending for improved performance at low income schools, key environmental programs, health care, science and technology research, and many other areas."


The Bush budget includes increased spending to combat bioterrorism, including stockpiling vaccines against diseases like anthrax (Photo by Joe Parker, courtesy U.S. Navy)
To pay for these priorities, the Bush budget slashes spending for several environmental programs, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which would lose $300 million in funding. As he did last year, President Bush proposes to reduce funding for centralized enforcement activities at EPA, shifting about $10 million to the states to support local environmental enforcement.

In another repeat of last year's White House budget, Bush proposes to cut funding for water projects at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, largely by placing a moratorium on the launch of new projects. Certain navigation projects, including dredging and upgrading locks and dams, would get funding boosts, as would environmental restoration efforts in the Florida Everglades and Columbia River Basin.

Bush plans to raise money by leasing out mineral rights to some public lands - including the North Slope of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Congress has so far blocked the administration's efforts to open the pristine refuge to oil and natural gas drilling.

Spending increases for conservation including full funding - more than $900 million - for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is supported by offshore oil and natural gas leases. National parks operations would receive $1.58 billion under the Bush budget, up about $107.5 million from last year, and national wildlife refuge funding would rise by $54 million.

One notable increase would be Bush's $100 million request for cooperative conservation efforts under a new program, The Cooperative Conservation Initiative (CCI). The initiative would encourage private landowners to implement conservation projects with public land managers and local communities.


The Bush budget calls for raising money by opening part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to energy exploration (Photo courtesy Arctic National Wildlife Refuge)
Half of the program's budget would be distributed to states to fund cost share grants for innovative conservation projects. The other $50 million would be used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service to fund cost share grants.

Bush says he remains committed to eliminating the National Park Service's $4.9 billion maintenance backlog by 2006, providing about $663 million in fiscal year 2003. But conservation groups say that figure is far too little to meet the agency's needs.

The Bush plan proposes a spending deficit of $80 billion for 2003 - the first budget deficit since 1998 - and another, smaller deficit of $14 billion in 2004. The administration projects that the federal government will overspend by $106 billion this year, largely due to vastly increased defense spending since September 11.