WASHINGTON – The State Department is seeking substantial budget increases to fight the global AIDS epidemic and to counter terrorism, including more than $1 billion in new funds to tighten security at embassies, officials say.
High on the department's wish list is $100 million to hire an additional 399 officers for Secretary of State Colin Powell's initiative to promote U.S. foreign policy, said the officials, speaking only on condition of anonymity.
The battles against terrorism and AIDS, a more quiet foe that claimed 3.1 million lives around the world in 2002, have helped shape the department's request to the White House budget office for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
President Bush is to submit his budget for fiscal 2004 to Congress early next month. In the meantime, Congress has not completed action on the department's spending requests for the current fiscal year, which include more than $16 billion to combat terrorism.
The 2004 budget will aim to sustain a broad effort against terrorism that involves economic assistance, foreign military training and economic development.
A wave of anti-American and anti-Western sentiment has translated into attacks and spurred increased security at U.S. embassies.
Powell's initiative is designed to fill vacancies in the foreign service and to place new emphasis on teaching foreign audiences what the United States is trying to accomplish.
A senior department official declined to provide the precise amount that department would seek in counterterrorism spending.
Powell, meanwhile, has given high priority to the struggle against the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
"The positions we hold in our governments give our voices resonance at home and abroad," he told a group of foreign ambassadors last month. "We can and must use our voices to convince others of the urgency and gravity of this global problem."
Powell said every nation - regardless of its size, economic status or political strength - is vulnerable to the disease.
As the department prepared its requests, six former national security advisers who have served both Democrats and Republicans asked Condoleezza Rice, who now holds the job, to support a substantial increase in foreign spending.
In real terms, foreign spending was 30 percent higher during the Reagan administration, they wrote Rice.
"Our diplomats will play a critical role in assembling coalitions that will defeat global terrorist organizations, and they need the tools to do the job," they said in a letter obtained by The Associated Press.
The six former officials - Frank C. Carlucci, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Anthony Lake, Richard V. Allen, William P. Clark and Brent Scowcroft - said they were confident Congress and the public would support a substantial increase in spending.
The boost, they said, "will serve as a vital complement to military and intelligence upgrades in this country's long battle against global terror."
Powell's push for more security is reflected in a multiyear plan that Congress financed with more than $1 billion for fiscal year 2002, with a request for like amounts in fiscal 2003 and 2004, the official said.
At the same time, Powell has made a point of hiring more officers for the foreign and civil services. That effort began with 300 new positions in 2002, and funds for the same number in the next two years. That will cost about $100 million each year, the official said.