Thursday, September 09, 2004

REPORT CARD: An Indefensible Homeland Security Record

REPORT CARD: An Indefensible Homeland Security Record

The Bush administration receives a "D+" on Homeland Security
( .
Though it has spent billions to deal with an imaginary threat in Iraq, it
has not sufficiently funded
( , nor has
it put forth realistic strategies to deal with, threats to America's
ports, railways, chemical plants and other infrastructure. It has also
failed to secure America's borders or establish effective terrorist watch
lists. The Department of Homeland Security remains " grossly
underfunded ( " and the
color-coded alert system ( is
dysfunctional. Fundamentally, the administration seems to think it can defeat
terrorism by " taking the fight to the enemy
( ," but
as Homeland Security expert Stephen Flynn warns, "Targeting terrorism
at its source is an appealing notion. Unfortunately, the enemy is not

PORTS AND RAILWAYS: The administration has severely underfunded
( maritime security, imperiling
the safety of hundreds of thousands of people who live near ports. The
Coast Guard has projected the cost of implementing safety regulations
laid out by Congress at $7.3 billion over the next ten years, but the
administration has distributed just $441 million so far, and the
president's 2005 budget
proposes to spend only $46 million. Stephen Flynn, a retired U.S. Coast
Guard Commander, points out, "For the cost of two F-22 fighter jets and
three days of combat in Iraq...the nation's ports could be secured
against terror." Meanwhile, millions of train passengers also remain
unprotected and the administration has not forced the rail industry to
safeguard shipments of hazardous materials. Bush's 2005 budget allocation for
train security is $100 million
( , equal to
what the U.S. spends on eight typical hours in Iraq
( .

BORDERS: The 9/11 Commission
( concluded that
the Bush administration had failed to adequately secure America's
borders and track new visitors. Commission Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton said,
"We need secure borders with heightened and uniform standards
( of
identification for those entering and exiting the country, and an
immigration system able to be efficient, allowing good people in while
keeping the terrorists out." The Department of Homeland Security currently
has no strategy for tracking down and deporting people who remain beyond
the conditions of their stay.

LAW ENFORCEMENT: Remarkably, Bush administration homeland security
cutbacks have meant fewer cops and first responders on the streets today
than there were on 9/11. And despite a supposedly high level of domestic
alert, the Bush administration's 2005 budget calls for a 31.9 percent
decrease in law enforcement funding from levels approved by Congress in
FY2004. Foreign Affairs reports that on average, "U.S. fire departments
have only enough radios to equip half their firefighters on a shift,
and breathing apparatus for only a third. Police departments in cities
across the country do not have the protective gear to safely secure a
site following a WMD attack. And most emergency medical technicians lack
the tools
to determine which chemical or biological agent may have been used."

ASSIGNMENT FOR ACTION: The Center recommends that President Bush give
new funding and priority to port and railway security and require the
chemical industry to adopt tighter security guidelines. The president
should also eliminate the color-coded threat alert system and order
Homeland Security to come up with a more focused and complete mechanism for
communicating threats to Americans. Finally, he should order the Office
of Management and Budget to draw up a national security budget that
includes appropriations for defense, intelligence, homeland security,
diplomacy and foreign assistance. The Belfer Center at Harvard
has developed solutions to "key gaps" in the administration's current
policy, including better funding for first responders in areas most
likely to be affected by terrorism and more widespread vaccinations.