Dark Bilious Vapors

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Home » Archives » September 2005 » And Speaking of Homeland Security…

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09/14/2005: And Speaking of Homeland Security…

...We were…weren’t WE??? There was this story from our own Daily Herald How hand of politics moves anti-terrorism dollars by John Patterson.

Given that the Child-in-Chief has *finally* admitted he *might* have some questions about our ability to respond to a future disaster at all levels of government - it might be interesting to have a recap of how this money already been allocated by our Congress - for our protection.

Unfortunately, the Daily Herald does not have the charts and inset-boxes of additional information available on-line. But the numbers are Stunning - as to *stunningly outrageous* in having no relationship to actual Terrorist THREATs or NEED for spending per person, per state. Bleh!!

Click on the “more” button to read this piece in full.

A thousand miles off Japan’s coast, in the midst of the Pacific Ocean, sits one of the best-funded anti-terrorism outfits U.S. taxpayer money can buy.

The nearly 70,000 residents of the tropical paradise known as the Northern Mariana Islands rank second only to residents of our nation’s capital for anti-terrorism tax dollars spent on their behalf.

These remote islands are U.S. territory, best known for the airstrip that launched the Enola Gay and the atomic age. Over the past three years, nearly $24.4 million worth of anti-terrorism grants landed here. It’s not much considering the billions spent overall since Sept. 11. But it boils down to $349 per person, second only to the $422 per person funneled to Washington, D.C.

Illinois, with $35 per person, ranks 42nd out of the 56 states and accompanying territories. On the flip side, Wyoming, Alaska, Vermont and the Dakotas all make the top 10, though they have far fewer people .

This happens because Congress handles homeland security spending in much the same way it handles highway money or other federal funding: everybody gets something. In this case, the 2001 Patriot Act sets aside an equal portion of the anti-terrorism budget for each state and territory. Anything left over is given out based on population.

In practice, 39 percent of the money has gone equally to the states and territories, with the remaining 41 percent divvied by population.

“Quite frankly, it amazes me that we have gone this long allocating such a large portion of homeland security funds based on everything but the threat of a terrorist attack to a particular area or region,” said U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey during a debate on terrorism spending earlier this year. Lowey is a New York Democrat and member of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Other critics include President Bush, his homeland security director, numerous experts and the members of the 9-11 Commission, who warned against using homeland security dollars as yet another political pork barrel.

“Homeland security assistance should be based strictly on an assessment of risks and vulnerabilities,” commissioners said in their best-selling report.

Change, however, has proven difficult. The current system allows every politician to ensure taking home a minimum amount of dollars regardless of risk, or even need.

The Bush administration did create grants just for urban centers, which are perceived to be the most likely targets.

More recently, Michael Chertoff, the nation’s homeland security chief, called for the country to prioritize its funding, focusing not on any site considered vulnerable, but those that would present dire consequences if attacked.

“So, if an enemy destroys all the Northern Mariana, that is less consequence than a terrorist attack in Chicago,” said Hank Chase, a national expert on infrastructure protection who focuses on homeland security for Smart and Associates, a management consulting and accounting firm.

That means more money for key urban areas and less for remote locales. Homeland security officials in Illinois, New York and other key states support such a switch.

But efforts to have all dollars devoted to risk have been watered down. Lawmakers from small and sparsely populated states argue sweeping funding changes could expose “softer” secondary targets, and caution the government is, in effect, deeming the lives of big city residents to be more valuable than others.

Wyoming lawmakers note that while their state seems an unlikely target, it’s home to key gas and oil pipelines in addition to numerous intercontinental ballistic missiles sitting in silos.

So far, the U.S. House and Senate each approved different plans to change the funding formula. In each case, every state would be guaranteed a minimum amount of funding. A final deal has yet to emerge, but actions thus far suggest a total overhaul is unlikely.

“There’s a lot of money that left this town for some silly stuff,” said Chase, referring to the nation’s capital. “Money kind of flew out of this town willy-nilly. It’s easy to criticize. It’d be nice to get half that money back.”

Karen on 09.14.05 @ 06:44 AM CST

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