The Bush administration has agreed to allocate an extra $9 million for an independent commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, resolving a budget standoff that had threatened to abort the panel's work, officials said yesterday.
Some Senate Democrats and commission members complained earlier this week that President Bush's $75 billion supplemental war budget did not include $11 million for the Sept. 11 commission, which was allocated $3 million last fall and would have run out of money in August.
Commission Chairman Thomas H. Kean (R), former governor of New Jersey, said yesterday that an agreement came after negotiations with the White House that resulted in a $2 million reduction in the additional funding. Most of the savings stem from the fact that the commission, which has struggled with delays since its creation, does not need to pay its 50-member staff for as long as lawmakers had envisioned, Kean said.
"I came back to them and told them I believe we can do it for $12 million, but not a cent less," Kean said. "We believe this will enable us to do this on budget and on time."
The commission, which must complete its work by May 2004, is preparing to hold its first public hearing on Monday in New York City. The 10-member panel is expected to investigate a broad range of issues surrounding the Sept. 11 attacks, ranging from airline security to border control to immigration policies. It follows a joint House-Senate inquiry last year into intelligence failures before the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
"Their work is important to our nation's security, and we want them to have the necessary resources," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said yesterday.
Some lawmakers and groups who represent relatives of attack victims questioned whether the administration was putting up obstacles to the commission, which the White House had initially opposed.
Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) and seven other senators had endorsed adding $11 million for the commission to the supplemental war budget, an option the White House rejected. Instead, the money will come from the National Foreign Intelligence Program budget.
Lieberman said in a statement yesterday that he was "relieved the administration has recognized the value of providing the commission with the money it needs."