WASHINGTON – Presidential hopeful Sen. Joseph Lieberman criticized President Bush for being "too stingy in improving our homeland defenses" and called for a $16 billion increase in spending on domestic defense.
"Our borders and ports are too porous, our first responders are under-supported, our infrastructure is under-protected and our supply of vaccines and antidotes is far too limited," the Connecticut Democrat said Friday in a speech at George Washington University. "We can and must do better."
Bush's budget proposal for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 calls for spending $41.3 billion on homeland security. Lieberman's plan would increase that amount by more than a third, and roughly half of the senator's proposed increase would be spent on police, firefighters and other first responders.
Lieberman called for more coordinated work between the departments of Homeland Security and Defense to train first responders in chemical, radiological and biological warfare. He proposed a National Homeland Security Academy, a sort of West Point for domestic defense training, and said he would introduce legislation to expand the ROTC to add domestic defense training.
He said first responders should have instant access to the 58 federal terrorist watch lists. And he called for the creation of a 24-hour operation center in each state to ensure communications links between local and state officials and the federal government.
He called for thousands of additional border patrol agents. While he applauded the Transportation Security Administration for doing a good job with airline security, he said the agency should broaden its scope to examine the safety of other forms of transportation.