Thu, Feb 10, 2005 - Page 2 News List

AIT could get funding increase

US BUDGET The Bush administration has proposed a 2.75 percent increase in funds for the office, with a large chunk allocated to boosting container security in Kaohsiung

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

The Bush administration has proposed a 2.75 percent increase in funding for the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) for fiscal year 2006, which begins on Oct. 1, partly in an effort to prevent Taiwan from being a base for terrorist activities against the US.

In a year of overall budget tightness in Washington, in which President George W. Bush is seeking to cut or end more than 100 domestic programs to save money, the new budget, presented to Congress on Monday, seeks US$19.8 million in funding for AIT, an increase of US$529,000 over the current fiscal year's US$19.2 million.

Last year, funding totalled US$18.6 million.

Container security

Much of the increase, US$165,000 will go toward boosting container security in Kaohsiung.

That money will fund management of a consular office in the port city to provide "critical oversight and support" for the AIT office there, according to the State Department budget document. Official US funding for AIT is channeled through the department.

The US Customs and Border Protection office will soon add 15 US container security inspectors in Kaohsiung as part of the container security initiative agreement recently reached by Taipei and Washington.

The container security initiative is an effort to help protect US homeland security by inspecting containers at ports of debarkation to prevent containers smuggling terrorists or terrorist materials from entering US ports.

`Routine expenditures'

The rest of the budget increase will go toward such routine expenditures as cost-of-living adjustments and pay raises, and adjustments for inflation.

In addition to the official funding, the office is expected to receive US$30 million from services it performs, including US$18 million in visa processing fees, the budget estimates.

Of the visa fees, some US$5 million will be set aside for such things as capital projects.

It was not immediately known whether that US$5 million will go toward the construction of a new AIT headquarters building in Taipei.

AIT and Taiwan's government last December signed a 99-year lease on a site in Neihu for a new AIT Taipei headquarters building. The 2.6 hectare site on Jinhu Road will house the new building, which will cost an estimated US$160 million to develop. Officials did not say when the new office would open.

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