Bush to seek $1.5 billion for bioterrorism

By KATHY A. GAMBRELL, White House Reporter  |  Oct. 15, 2001 at 11:50 AM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 15 (UPI) -- President Bush on Monday was expected to ask Congress for an additional $1.5 billion to fight bioterrorism as the United States enters its second week of bombarding Afghan targets in answer to the Taliban government's refusal to surrender Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden and members of his Muslim extremist group, al Qaida.

Bush's request comes as the administration works to reassure the American people as one death from the pathogen anthrax and additional cases of exposure were reported in New York, Nevada and Florida. Officials say they have not linked the anthrax cases to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, but refer to them as acts of terrorism because the aim of the tainted envelopes mailed to news organizations and a computer software company was to frighten the public.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said Sunday that the administration would seek additional money to increase the nation's stockpile of anthrax vaccine to treat 12 million people for 60 days, about five times more than current supply levels.

"We have 400 tons of pharmaceutical supplies of all kinds of antibiotics spread throughout the United States in a push package. We have just reached an agreement with OMB to go into Congress this week and ask for an extra billion dollars to increase the amount of purchases for all of these supplies, just to make sure that Americans of all -- any place in this world -- country -- are going to be protected," Thompson said in his appearance on Fox News Sunday.

Thompson said the federal government has enough stores of the antibiotic Cipro to treat people possibly exposed or infected in the recent onslaught of reported cases.

"We're treating 1,000 people in Florida. We're going to be treating several hundred at NBC in New York. If you need it, we're going to be there. And we have shown from all indications that we're able to move very rapidly. We were able to move the supplies into New York City within seven hours after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack," Thompson said, adding that the public should not hoard the drug.

Late morning, Bush was to travel to DAR Constitution Hall in Washington to speak to federal employees who are members of the Service Executives Service and praise their work since the attacks and during the current crisis. Bush then was to proceed to Fort Myer, Va., where he will participate in a ceremony welcoming Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Richard Myers to his administration.

Later in the day, the president was to welcome Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to the Oval Office and to have lunch in the White House residence. Berlusconi, a billionaire businessman, was sworn in as prime minister in June.

This week, Bush and senior administration officials will be preparing to leave Washington for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation form being held in Shanghai, China, Saturday and Sunday. National security adviser Condoleezza Rice is expected later on Monday to detail the issues Bush and the United States will be discussing during his China trip.

Secretary of State Colin Powell is expected to join Bush in China after he completes his trip to Islamabad, Pakistan, where he is trying to quell fears over heightened anti-American sentiment in the country that borders Afghanistan. Powell is expected to meet with Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Powell then leaves for New Delhi, India, from where he will proceed to Shanghai.

Rice was also to tape an interview with Al-Jazeera, the Arabic television station broadcast throughout the Middle East. Al-Jazeera was the television station that aired bin Laden's taped statement the day the United States and Britain began its bombing campaign.

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