NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

HOMELAND SECURITY SMARTENS UP ON FUNDS

January 5, 2006

In the past, Homeland Security has not spent its anti-terror dollars wisely, says the Dallas Morning News. Which is why Puerto Rico in 2002 received more disaster preparedness grants than 23 states, and why Washington, D.C., used preparedness dollars to buy leather jackets, and why a rural county in Washington state spent $63,000 on hazardous materials equipment and then stored it because the county didn't have a hazardous materials team.

This kind of political pork -- and national security folly -- has prompted Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff to promise that the department will begin reviewing grant requests based on the risk and consequences of terrorist attacks on certain cities and targets.

It is astonishing Homeland Security officials took so long to move away from the ineffective grant-sharing formulas and congressional politics that have distorted the distribution of homeland security funds since the Sept. 11 attacks. While essential, this change alone will not make America safer, says the News. For example:

  • Congress hasn't done enough to secure chemical plants, inspect air cargo or protect the nation's ports.
  • Homeland Security also hasn't completed a comprehensive database of critical infrastructure in the United States, including an evaluation of rail and transit systems.
  • Border insecurity remains a threat, and, as the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) response to Hurricane Katrina shows, a coordinated emergency response to a terrorist attack will be, at best, problematic.

Homeland Security efforts have to be allocated based on reasonable assessments of risk. Taxpayer dollars must be spent on what's most likely to deter terrorism, not just on what provides bureaucrats and politicians with the illusion of making the nation safer, says the News.

It's wise to look for terrorists in unlikely places, but not at the expense of making the most likely targets less secure, says the News.

Source: Editorial, "It's About Time: Homeland Security smartens up on funds," Dallas Morning News, January 5, 2006.

 

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