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Bush Visits Coast Guard, Promotes Homeland Security

Bush Visits Coast Guard, Promotes Homeland Security

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush highlights his request for more money for wartime domestic security by focusing on the accomplishments of the U.S. Coast Guard, now on its highest alert since World War II.

As part of his $74.7 billion war budget, Bush has asked lawmakers to approve about $4.2 billion for the new Department of Homeland Security and other domestic security programs.

Bush was visiting Philadelphia on Monday to pay tribute to the Coast Guard, which is now part of that new department.

In an address to hundreds of Coast Guard personnel, Bush also planned to claim progress in the war against Iraq.

Before leaving for Philadelphia, Bush met with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Myers' top deputy, Marine Gen. Pete Pace, and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

National security adviser Condoleezza Rice was giving a speech of her own to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Thousands of people gathered for the address, which was closed to news coverage.

Bush's quick visit to Pennsylvania, his 19th since becoming president, was to the Coast Guard facility at the Port of Philadelphia, where he was being briefed by Coast Guard commanders and then was to deliver a speech.

The Coast Guard is also playing an active role in the war in Iraq, helping secure the port at Umm Qasr. A Coast Guard cutter and helicopter escorted the British ship with the first humanitarian aid shipment into the Iraqi port.

Bush was traveling with Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thomas H. Collins and with Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, the former Pennsylvania governor whose department would get most of the new $4.2 billion.

Nearly half the money would be earmarked for equipment, training, and other security programs by state and local governments. The department would get $1.5 billion for its own programs.

The request also includes $500 million to improve the FBI's domestic counterterrorism efforts, and $250 million for a fund the president could use to prevent and respond to terrorist activities.

Bush was also seeking to reassure Americans the government is doing all it can to prevent new terror attacks at home.

He was highlighting Operation Liberty Shield, calling for close cooperation among federal, state and local governments, as well as private businesses such as chemical plants and banks.

Administration officials believe war with Iraq increases the possibility of attacks on U.S. soil or against U.S. interests abroad. The national threat level was raised to code orange, the second-highest level, earlier this month, just before Bush ordered the attack on Iraq.

The Coast Guard has stepped up security on waterways near petroleum and chemical plants, especially those close to large cities. Recently, the General Accounting Office, which is the investigative arm of Congress, said in a report that chemical plants "may be attractive targets for terrorists intent on causing massive damage."

In the run-up to war, Bush took a hiatus of more than a month from his normally heavy domestic travel itinerary.

His first trips since he launched the invasion March 19 have been to two states critical to his re-election -- Florida last week and Pennsylvania this week.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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