June 10, 2004
The Homeland Security Pork BarrelBy Douglas Hanson
Terror attacks on US territory threaten the lives of millions, and must be taken with the utmost seriousness. But to some, this threat represents an opportunity to exploit a mountain of money coming out of the federal treasury, ostensibly to protect the American people. It is absolutely vital to our safety that we get our priorities straight, and spend this money on capabilities that stand the best chance of thwarting potential attacks.
The demise of the Fallujah and southern Iraqi Shia uprisings, and the passage of the UN Security Council Resolution that endorses Allawi's interim government have removed two key national security arguments from the left's arsenal in their continuing attack on the President and the war. By extension, the Democratic Party's complete abrogation of its responsibility to protect our national security will be on display for all to see. So, what will John Kerry and the left do to bolster their credentials in national defense, and more importantly, how do they get the American people to buy into their claim to expertise in this critical area?
The left's strategy is slowly but surely unfolding, and it involves the Democrats' tried and true method of fear—mongering, and using exaggerated threats to justify vast expenditures of federal dollars to 'solve' the problem by greasing the palms of targeted constituencies. This tactic is reminiscent of Bill Clinton's use of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) during his Presidency, when federal dollars were lavished on favored congressional districts, governors, and mayors for seemingly minor to mid—level 'disasters' or for questionable 'preventive measures.' Such political cronyism would normally entail only political penalties in times of peace, and rarely involve criminal punishment. But when the political tinkering involves the security of the nation in a time of war, very real consequences involving homeland defense and human life are at stake.
An example of this scheme was reported in a Ministry of Truth (The Washington Post) article on April 30. John Kerry criticized President Bush during a speech to the National Conference of Black Mayors, and stated that the President had failed 'to adequately secure the nation's chemical plants from terrorist attacks.' Kerry's slamming of the President's record on homeland security in front of black mayors shows how the Democrats will now attack President Bush using a sly combination of fear of a terrorist attack and tough talk on homeland security measures, while dangling the carrot of federal dollars to fill state governors' and mayors' coffers —— not to mention those of their local contractor benefactors.
As with any attack on the President, the left will have the mainstream media pronouncing terrorist threats, and the science behind the threats, as fact, rather than as speculation molded to fit the worst fears of the target audience. The Big Government crowd will pound the table to remind the American public about the myriad bad things that can happen to us here at home during the War on Terror. The problem is that some of this fear—mongering will get some traction due to the woeful state of science education in our country, and the overwhelming desire for municipal governments and private corporations to cash in on billions of dollars of federal 'aid.'
The chemical plant threat that Kerry and others have touted, while not to be taken lightly, is based upon faulty data from questionable simulation programs. For example, in his speech to the mayors, Kerry stated in prepared remarks that '1 million people in Philadelphia could be killed or injured if its underprotected chemical plants were attacked by terrorists,' but he omitted this warning from his speech. This was for good reason, since these types of casualty figures have been thoroughly debunked.
In Chemical Plant Insecurity by Steven Milloy, these casualty figures were based on Environmental Protection Agency scenarios that had several unrealistic assumptions. Milloy says,
The agency, for example, pretended wind would blow in a 360 degree—radius from the site of a chemical release — that is, in all directions at the same time.
The EPA also pretended that the topography of heavily populated areas is flat — no buildings, trees, mountains or other barriers to drifting chemicals — and that chemical facilities have no capabilities for preventing or mitigating releases.
Milloy concludes that the 'EPA's worst—case scenarios are worthless as policy—making tools.' But this is only the beginning of exaggerated claims of disaster founded on specious analysis.
In the past few weeks, the mainstream media have emphasized a threat from the most misunderstood phenomenon of all: radiation. On May 6, Fox News reported that Ukrainian security forces seized two containers of Cesium—137 in the city of Simferpol, ostensibly for terrorists to use in a 'dirty bomb,' or what is officially called a Radiological Dispersal Device (RDD). Naturally, Cesium—137 presents the gravest threat possible to the public in the form of highly penetrating gamma radiation. Left unstated in these reports is how the terrorists hope to steal, handle, and transport the material to the target without themselves being exposed to deadly or incapacitating doses of radiation. Nor do most reports tell us that a very large quantity would have to be stolen in order to cause even minimal health effects in a downtown section of a major metropolitan area.
The latest example of Kerry's fear—mongering occurred on June 2 during a series of meetings with public health officials in Tampa, Florida. This time, he talked about the bio—terrorism threat to ensure he had covered all the bases in the WMD category. Kerry spoke about 'significant gaps' remaining in our bio—terrorism protective posture, and, in an interview with AP said that
You need to prepare your public health facilities. You need to prepare your hospitals and all the immediate first responders. Many of them will tell you right now that despite the talk over the course of the last years, there has not been that kind of preparation.
This statement may be true, but it is not because the President or the Homeland Security Department have been the stumbling blocks; the truth of the matter is quite the opposite. If mayors, medical first responders, firemen, and policemen feel they have been neglected by the feds in preparing for homeland defense, they actually need look no further than their own desks.
Since 9/11, there has been $6.3 billion in taxpayer dollars granted to all 50 states, money that was to be spent for anti—terrorism measures. Amazingly, $5.2 billion of this amount remains frozen in the administrative pipeline of the Department of Homeland Security (HLS) because of a lack adequate planning and risk—based assessments by the states and municipalities. In addition, those funds that did make it down to the local level were often spent on questionable products and services. This is a significant revelation for a couple of reasons. First, it is borderline criminal negligence that three and one—half years after 9/11, many states and cities have conducted no threat assessments or developed the resulting operational budget priorities; and second, it is stunning that a federal agency is actually holding the locals' feet to the fire when it comes to ensuring that lavish expenditures of taxpayer dollars on questionable programs will not be tolerated.
A good example of this malfeasance was reported in the Des Moines Register at the end of April of this year. The piece cites a congressional report that shows that states and cities have spent billions of dollars
without any real assessment of risk or need, and some police and fire departments have used the grants to purchase equipment of "only marginal utility" in the fight against terrorism.
The Register also conducted its own investigation, and found that a state—by—state analysis indicated that Iowa did, in fact, consider the threats and risks before developing their plan of funding and grants, but that it is also one of 25 states that give the same level of money to every county, regardless of the risk.
Another unpublicized example concerns the planned terrorism response budget expenditures for a major (unnamed) metropolitan area of over 1 million people. Out of $66 million, $49 million is devoted to training and equipping area hospitals and medical personnel, while only $61,000 is devoted to the addition of one anti—terrorism investigator. It apparently never dawned on the planners that more money for a pro—active law enforcement capability just might lessen the need to spend an exorbitant amount of money to clean up the mess 'after the fact.' The lame effort to enhance its law enforcement capability is even outmatched by its $208,000 allocation to the school districts for some program that is not even specified in the plan.
Kerry's criticisms are further rendered useless by the fact that President Bush signed the first true HLS appropriations bill on October 1, 2003. The bill provides $29.41 billion in fiscal year 2004, which is $1.6 billion above the President's request. The presumptive Democrat nominee has, and will continue to pander to cities, medical professionals, and law enforcement unions by holding out the carrot of billions of dollars of federal HLS funds, with the understanding that 'quality control' will consist of pure political cronyism.
In other words, Kerry's answer to getting tough on terrorists who threaten our homeland is to spend the taxpayers money only where he sees fit, as a reward for cooperative politicians, and as a sop for certain government worker unions.
Douglas Hanson is our military affairs correspondent