Bush Spending Plan Focuses Attention on Preventing Computer Hacks

Preventing terrorists from hacking into computer systems that run the nation's power grid and other vital networks gets a new emphasis in President Bush's proposed budget for homeland security.

The president would spend at least $294 million for the Department of Homeland Security to protect federal networks from hackers, including $83 million to deploy a program that monitors intrusions on federal networks.

That's a nearly 40 percent increase over what has been spent for that purpose this year.

An additional $39 million would be dedicated to cyber security programs at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Much of the funding for the administration's cyber security initiative is part of the classified Intelligence budget.

"An unfortunate consequence of living in a networked, technological-dependent world is that terrorists and others seek to use our own technology against us, including the Internet," Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Monday.

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Last month Chertoff told The Associated Press that the department would also offer the private sector an Internet monitoring and protection program which companies could participate in voluntarily.

President Bush is proposing a 6 percent increase in spending for homeland security next year in a spending plan that devotes more than a third of the security budget to securing the nation's borders and transportation systems.

The president's $68 billion request includes money to continue building a fence along the southwest border and to hire 2,200 more Border Patrol agents.

It seeks $131 million to enhance security measures at airport passenger checkpoints. And it includes a new surcharge of up to $1 for each airline trip, to help pay for improvements in baggage screening.

The Agriculture Department would receive an additional $120 million that includes money for surveillance and protection of the nation's food supply chain.

The State Department would get an additional $500 million to provide more secure travel documents for people traveling to and from the Caribbean, Bermuda, Panama, Canada and Mexico.

It would also pay for a border security program that provides inspection equipment to Mexican customs and immigration agencies.

The president also wants to increase spending to $11 billion to defend against catastrophic threats including chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks — a 35 percent increase over the current level.

The money would go toward developing and deploying radiation detection technology across the country, including in major urban areas.

The president is also asking for $2.2 billion for state and local terrorism preparedness programs — an amount Congress is likely to increase.

"It's impossible to secure our nation without securing our communities first," said Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the House committee that oversees the Homeland Security department. Thompson said $2.2 billion is not enough to help state and local governments.