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President Bush Signs Defense Bill

Aired October 23, 2002 - 10:38   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: First, we want to head to Washington, where White House correspondent Kelly Wallace is standing by with some new information.
What can you tell us?

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Carol, we can tell you certainly President Bush continuing to monitor this investigation. He will be coming out in the Rose Garden just a few minutes from now to sign a couple of spending bills, one including a large increase for funding for the military. But a lot of questions have been raised about whether the federal government should take over this investigation, whether the FBI should go ahead and take over all the investigative matters.

Well, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer saying, no, the administration believes it should be a joint command between federal and local law enforcement, that local law enforcement believes this is the best way to proceed, and that the president won't be micromanaging the process.

And we also know the federal government providing many resources, the latest to some schools in the area, the Maryland school superintendent asking late yesterday for money to get radio equipment for school buses, the educational department providing $250,000 to Maryland schools, the same amount of money going to Virginia schools, and then $100,000 to schools in the District of Columbia.

There is now the president in the Rose Garden. Let's listen to his comments.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good morning. Please be seated.

The security of the American people is the first commitment of the American government. Our nation faces grave new dangers, and our nation must fully support the men and women of our military who confront these dangers on our behalf.

The Department of Defense and the military construction appropriation bills I sign today will make our country more secure, make our military forces more prepared and reward military families for their sacrifice and service. These bills pass with bipartisan support send a message: America's united, America is strong and America will remain strong.

I appreciate so very much Vice President Cheney joining me today. He is a great vice president.

I appreciate Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld joining me today. He's a great secretary of defense.

I appreciate Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz coming. I want to thank Tom White, the secretary of the Army.

I want to thank the members of the Congress who have joined us today, both Democrat and Republican. Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. Bill Young of Florida. Dave Hobson of Ohio. And Jim Moran of Virginia.

I want to thank the service chiefs who are here, done such a good job for our country. I want to thank their senior enlisted advisers.

I want to thank the friends of the United States military who are here in the Rose Garden today. I want to thank those who wear the uniform who are here. And I welcome my fellow Americans.

Since September 11, Americans have been reminded that the safety of many depends on the courage and skill of a few. We've asked our military to bring justice to agents of terror. We've asked our military to liberate a captive people on the other side of the Earth.

We've asked our military to prepare for conflict in Iraq if it proves necessary. We're asking young Americans to serve in many places far from home and at great risk. We owe them every resource, every weapon and every tool they need to fulfill their missions. The best military in the world must have every advantage required to defend the peace of the world. And the best military in the world is making good progress on this, the first war of the 21st century.

It's a different kind of war. Our military knows it. After all, we're on an international manhunt. We're chasing cold- blooded killers down, one killer at a time, and we're making good progress. We've hauled in or arrested, thanks to our military and our friends and allies, over a couple a thousand killers and like number weren't as lucky. In either case, they're no longer a threat to the American people.

Sometimes the American people will see the progress we're making and sometimes they won't. They just need to know that the United States military is after them one person at a time.

The bill I sign today also sends a clear signal to friend and foe alike, and it doesn't matter how long it takes to defend our freedom. The United States of America will stay the course. There is no time table in the Oval Office here behind me that says, "At a certain period of time we no longer care deeply about our freedoms, and, therefore, we're going to quit."

There's no such timetable. The bill today says America is determined and resolute to not only defend our freedom, but to defend freedom around the world; that we're determined and resolute to answer the call to history; and that we will defeat terror.


This year's defense bill provides nearly $355 billion to protect our country, more than $37 billion increase from fiscal year 2002 -- for fiscal year 2002.

We're matching increased funding with clear priorities.

First, this legislation takes care of our men and women in uniform and their families. We provide the money for a pay increase of 4.1 percent for service members; provide for additional full-time support personnel for the National Guard and Reserves; continue to reduce the out-of-pocket cost for housing for our service members and their families.

The military construction appropriations bill adds $10.5 billion for building and upgrading military installations and for military family housing.

We're taking care of our people. We want the people who wear the uniform to know America appreciates their service.

Secondly, this year's defense bill will ensure that our military is ready and well-equipped. We've increased funds for operations and maintenance by more than $5 billion, provide nearly $72 billion for weapon procurement, an $11 billion increase.

Today's America forces are ready and able to deploy to any point in the globe to defeat any foe, and we're going to keep it that way.

This legislation begins developing the next generations of weaponry that will win battles in the future. We invest almost $58 billion in research and development. At the same time, the bill ends some weapons systems that aren't going to meet the needs of the future. And that's an important contribution to our military.

To have the willingness to say, "This program works and this one doesn't," is important. So we ended the Crusader artillery program; program that was designed for a different era. Instead, we will fund new systems, systems that will enable our military to do a more effective job at defending America and our freedoms, systems such as the unmanned aerial vehicles, like the Predator and the Global Hawk, that we've used so effectively in Afghanistan.

We fund efforts to adopt Cold War systems, like the Trident submarine, to meet the new 21st century missions. We fund over $7 billion to protect America and her friends from the threat of ballistic missiles.

We're grateful that Congress completed it's important work on defense and military construction appropriations bills.

I want to thank them for working hard on these two important pieces of legislation. I appreciate the bipartisan spirit.

There's still important work to complete. For example, Congress has yet to act on my proposal to nearly double overall funding for homeland defense, including my request for unprecedented funding levels for police and firefighters and emergency medical personnel who are on the front lines of defending our citizens. In addition, our new Department of Homeland Security is stalled in the Senate.

The defense bill I will sign today funds our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, all of which exist in a single department. That department was created by President Harry Truman when he reorganized our nation's defense structure to meet the security threats of a new era. Today, we are once again in a new era, yet our homeland security activities are spread among more than 100 different government agencies.

America needs a single department of government, dedicated to protecting our people and to protecting our homeland. We can't wait any longer. The threats to America are simply too great. Providing for the security of our country is a broader task other than just keeping our military strong.

I look forward to working with Congress on all the measures needed to build the strength and security of the greatest nation on the face of the Earth.

It is now my honor to sign the Department of Defense Appropriations Act and the Military Construction Appropriations Act.


COSTELLO: As you can see, the president is set to sign the defense spending bill, and a huge bill it is, $355 billion. It is a $37.6 billion increase over the last defense spending bill, and you can see the president signing it into law, making it official.


We're going to go to our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr right now to find out more details.

Barbara, two interesting things, it was interesting to see Dick Cheney standing with the president, and the other question I had is, this defense spending bill is huge. And many Americans must wonder where the United States is getting all the money.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's true, Carol. In fact, as the president pointed out and you see him there signing into law the biggest defense spending bill ever, $355 billion and, of course, that money is coming from the American taxpayers.

But what may be most interesting is what's not being talked about at the White House this morning as you see that signing ceremony conclude, and that of course who is going to pay for the war with Iraq and how much that war is going to cost, and this huge defense spending bill, $355 billion, doesn't even begin to consider the cost of any war with Iraq.

The president's own budget and economic adviser suggesting recently that a war could cost as much as $100 billion. The Congressional Budget Office did their own assessment. They said a war could run the United States $10 billion a month just to run the war, $13 billion just to get forces there, and no one knows how long a war there would last and what it would cost the United States military to run an occupation of Iraq after the war.

So even with this huge defense spending bill today, there's a lot of costs out there that the White House is not clear, and neither is Congress actually, about how they're going to fund. If they do need to fund a military action in Iraq, the White House is going to have to go back to Congress for some kind of supplemental appropriation. That will be looked at very closely and, of course, more money possibly for the war on terrorism and other military operations as they arise over the next several months. This military spending bill is just for the routine business of the Pentagon -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. Barbara Starr, thank you very much.


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