January 31, 2002 - Washington Post: President Hits the Road to Pitch Service Alternative

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By Admin1 (admin) on Thursday, January 31, 2002 - 12:28 am: Edit Post

President Hits the Road to Pitch Service Alternative

Read and comment on this story from the Washington Post on President Bush's plans to promote his national service initiative and to double the Peace Corps that he proposed in the State of the Union address at:

President Hits the Road to Pitch Service Alternative*

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President Hits the Road to Pitch Service Alternative

Americorps, Peace Corps Expansion Outlined

By Dana Milbank

Washington Post Staff Writer

Thursday, January 31, 2002; Page A01

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., Jan. 30 -- President Bush embarked on a barnstorming tour to promote the national service initiative he proposed in Tuesday's State of the Union address, calling for significant expansion of a program Republicans had tried to kill a few years ago.

In a campaign-style appearance before 7,000 cheering supporters here, Bush released the details of the national service and volunteerism effort unveiled in his address to Congress. Its early provisions are fairly modest, costing $560 million next year and expanding service programs far less than some in Congress had proposed.

But symbolically, Bush made clear that national service would be a priority for his administration, creating an eight-person White House office to oversee the initiative and putting it under the authority of John Bridgeland, a senior White House domestic policy official. That guarantees a prominent place in a Republican administration for President John F. Kennedy's Peace Corps and President Bill Clinton's pet project, AmeriCorps.

Administration officials said Bridgeland also would have influence over the White House Office of Community and Faith-Based Initiatives, which will be closely tied to the service office and will soon get a new director to replace John J. DiIulio Jr., who stepped down last year. The linkage provides the White House with a way to revive its effort to boost charities after legislation that Bush supported stalled in Congress last year.

"If you want to fight evil, we've figured out a way to do so militarily," the president said to a coliseum full of police officers, firefighters and GOP faithful. Tying national service to the war effort as he did in his Tuesday address, Bush added: "But at home, you fight evil with acts of goodness. You overcome the evil in society by doing something to help somebody."

Bush's blend of new programs and extensions of old programs included volunteer efforts to spot suspicious or threatening activities, called "Operation TIPS"; expanded neighborhood watches; and volunteer efforts to help police with administrative functions. These would be part of a new "Citizen Corps" coordinated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency that would spend $230 million next year. The Citizen Corps today released a "Citizens' Preparedness Guidebook" to help individuals prevent and respond to terrorist attacks.

Bush would also expand the AmeriCorps program, which provides more traditional volunteer services such as home-building and literacy coaching but is expected to become more involved in domestic preparedness. His plan would add 25,000 slots to the current 50,000. Bush would also increase the number of Senior Corps volunteers, a similar program for older Americans, to 600,000 from 500,000. The two expansions would cost $280 million next year. In addition, Bush proposed requiring colleges and universities to devote 50 percent of federal work-study funds they receive for community service work, up from the current 7 percent.

As he said in his speech Tuesday night, Bush would double the number of Peace Corps volunteers to a level near the 1960s peak. The new recruits, to be added at a cost of $200 million over five years, would help reconstruct Afghanistan and represent the United States in Muslim countries and in newly independent East Timor.

The proposals significantly expanded on the initiative Bush announced in November, when he said he wanted AmeriCorps and Senior Corps to provide 20,000 volunteers to help police, fire and public health agencies. But they are far smaller than proposals by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), who introduced legislation calling for 250,000 new AmeriCorps slots. Clinton had proposed 100,000 slots.

"The Bush proposal is a modest first step, but it puts it on the radar screen," said Marshall Wittmann, a Hudson Institute scholar who advised McCain on the legislation.

Les Lenkowsky, who heads AmeriCorps and Senior Corps, said the Bush program could become much larger. "We're looking at a whole host of things," he said, noting that the outline of the program was rushed out for the State of the Union speech. "The key is creating the mechanism," he said, referring to Bridgeland's office. "You might consider this the equivalent of the National Economic Council or the National Security Council."

A new "USA Freedom Corps Council" will recommend to Bush proposals for "additional service opportunities" and "incentives and information" to encourage service, according to a 32-page description of the service initiative released today by the White House. On Tuesday, Bush set a goal that each American would volunteer 4,000 hours in a lifetime.

Bayh said he was confident Bush's proposals could grow into the sort of massive national service program he pictured. "The president embraced the framework," he said. "The differences are of magnitude, not direction."

The first President Bush was an early supporter of AmeriCorps. But in the mid-1990s, congressional Republicans regularly sought to cut or eliminate it. In that context, Bush's support for the program is a dramatic shift for the party.

"It's a very good sign for the future of service," said Bruce Reed, who was domestic policy director during the Clinton administration, when AmeriCorps grew from several thousand volunteers to the current 50,000.

Bush toured a local crime-prevention project this morning and met with a group of Republicans in the afternoon before flying to Daytona Beach, Fla., where he will visit a firehouse for a Senior Corps event. In his address in Winston-Salem, the president looked as if he were leading a telethon as he stood in front of a banner promoting the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and his new USA Freedom Corps.

"It sounds like I'm making a pitch, and I am," Bush said to laughter after reading out the initiative's Internet address, usafreedomcorps.gov. "This is the right thing to do for America. 1-877-USA-CORPS. If somebody out there is interested in figuring out how to serve, it's 1-877-USA-CORPS."

Staff writer Glenn Kessler in Washington contributed to this report.

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