NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Agencies Grab for Homeland Defense Money

November 27, 2001

Shortly after Congress voted a $40 billion federal budget supplement for homeland defense purposes, federal agencies came up with $125 billion in requests for chunks of the money. By mid-November, the total had mounted to $200 billion.

But seasoned observers of federal government operations say that local officials and the private sector are probably better situated to respond to national emergencies than Washington agencies.

Here are some of their arguments:

  • Rather than give government new responsibilities, the President and Tom Ridge, at the new Office of Homeland Security, should try to improve the performance of federal security agencies in the jobs they already have.
  • That would include heightening the effectiveness of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Food and Drug Administration -- all of which have at one time or another been found wanting.
  • Government should pay greater attention to the multitude of products and procedures available from the private sector which could be applied to homeland defense.
  • Finally, the federal government should depend on state and local agencies for first response to further attacks if they occur.

The final point is particularly important, critics say, because local officials have been complaining about federal agencies muddling their domestic security efforts with red tape.

Source: George Melloan, "America's Federal Agencies Stake 'Homeland Defense' Claims," Wall Street Journal, November 27, 2001.

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