Senators: DHS Budget Underfunds First Responders

President Bush's new budget would not devote enough money to domestic security, senators said Monday, noting big cuts in funds for firefighters, police and others who would respond to a terrorist attack.

"A stunning 30 percent cut ... for first responders (search) is the latest alarming evidence of shortchanging the homeland side of the war against terrorism," Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., told Homeland Security (searchSecretary Secretary Tom Ridge.

"We have a long way to go yet before we fulfill the promises that we made to the American people in those dark days following the 9-11 attacks to adequately secure the homeland," Lieberman said at a budget hearing before the Senate Committee on Government Affairs (search).

The $47 billion that Bush proposes to spend in fiscal year 2005 to prevent attacks or respond once they happen, "truly does pale in comparison" to the $402 billion the Pentagon plans to spend, Lieberman said.

The budget, covering domestic security expenses at a number of government agencies, would be a 14 percent increase from Fiscal 2004's $41.4 billion. That budget year ends Sept. 30.

But senators criticized cuts, including those to grants to states for training first responders, funding levels that would take 22 years to modernize the Coast Guard (search); and a $39 million cut in money to help hospitals develop the ability to response to bioterror attacks.

Ridge defended priorities in the budget, saying a number of times that it takes into account current "the fiscal and security circumstances."