blogenlust
9.02.2004

Homeland Security


I heard Matthew Brzezinski interviewed on Fresh Air yesterday afternoon, and was struck by what he said about the Department of Homeland Security. He wrote the cover story for the latest Mother Jones about the disconnect between what the DHS was charged to do, and what it has the ability to do. Basically, Brzezinski warns that we haven't put nearly as much money and resources into DHS as we need to if we have any illusions of effectively preventing major terrorist attacks. He points to two reasons for this. The first is that DHS was quickly put together to alleviate concerns that we weren't doing anything to prevent future terrorism. The problem, though, is that it instantly created the largest government agency (composed of 22 former government agencies 186,200 employees, and a budget of $27 Billion), and we all know what that means: bureaucracy. Thus, the sheer size of the DHS makes it less capable of quickly responding to the needs for which it was created. The second problem that Brzezinski warns about is the war in Iraq. His contention is that both financially and imaginatively, the war in Iraq has diverted resources from homeland security. He doesn't buy the argument that we don't have to spend as much money on homeland security because we are fighting the terrorists in Iraq, and not NYC and Nebraska. The billions of dollars spent so far on Iraq have taken away valuable finances from homeland security, which is already strapped for cash like so many other government agencies. Imaginatively, he argued that "a firefight in Fallujah" has captured the imagination of the White House more than defending the homeland. In particular, he noted that not nearly enough has been done to make sure that cargo screening on airplanes is up to the task of detecting bombs or WMD. He also pointed out that Wyoming receives more federal dollars per capita for homeland security than California, and Alaska and (one other rural state I have forgotten) receive more than NY per capita. (My opinion is that homeland security dollars should not be subject to egalitarian distribution. NYC is much more likely to suffer a terrorist attack than Casper, Wyoming.) Check out the article. The link only has a preview, but if you see Mother Jones on the newsstand, you'll be able to read the whole thing. The Republicans have been making the argument this week that they are the only ones who can keep us safe. Unfortunately, they control all three branches of government, and have for some time. They are largely responsible for the lack of funding and imagination when it comes to Homeland Security.