[Paleopsych] WT: (Homeland Security Pork) Veronique de Rugy: What's Kerry's plan?

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Wed Oct 6 14:20:06 UTC 2004

Veronique de Rugy: What's Kerry's plan?
Published October 6, 2004

[Mr. Mencken would be very pleased at the predictable pork barrell. 
Predictably, too, very little security money is being on cyberterrorism. 
Does anyone know where one can get a summary of the various opinions on 
this issue. *Can* the Internet be crippled, for example, by massive denial 
of service attacks?]

        On the rare occasions that presidential candidate John Kerry talks
    about homeland security, he criticizes President Bush for not spending
    enough money on it. This is surprising because proposed funding of
    homeland security for fiscal year 2005 is $47 billion, a staggering
    180 percent increase since 2001. Mr. Kerry's knee-jerk instinct to
    spend more is hardly unusual. Too many politicians in Washington focus
    on the level of spending and very few bother considering the quality
    of spending.
        Homeland security should be different. The nation is not
    endangered when politicians misallocate highway funds, but there will
    be deadly consequences if cost-benefit analysis and risk assessment
    take a back seat to pork barrel antics when anti-terrorism funds are
    allocated. Fortunately, some lawmakers are beginning to focus on
    quality over quantity. House leaders, for instance, want to overhaul
    the way the federal government distributes anti-terrorism funds. The
    Senate, meanwhile, stopped Democrats from adding $20 billion to the
    $33 billion fiscal year 2005 homeland security spending bill.
        Cost-benefit analysis is difficult because homeland security
    spending continues to be an elusive figure. A large portion of
    homeland security spending -- $20 billion -- takes place outside of
    the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), much of it through agencies
    known for chronic wasteful spending. Moreover, only $27 billion of the
    DHS's $40 billion budget will go to homeland security activities. The
    remaining $13 billion will finance non-homeland security activities
    like the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) food and shelter
        This haphazard budget system is useful to politicians. Spending
    initiatives that Congress did not approve when they were outside of
    DHS are likely to sail through because of their DHS affiliation. For
    instance, the Senate recently attached $2.9 billion to the fiscal year
    2005 homeland security bill in disaster aid for farm states.
    Thankfully, Republicans blocked Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a Democrat from
    New Jersey, from adding another $100 million for fishing enforcement
    and Coast Guard boater assistance.
        More worrisome, much of homeland security money is spent on grants
    to state and local governments that won't have any impact on
    terrorism. The formula used by DHS to spread federal funds provides
    every state with a guaranteed minimum amount regardless of risk or
    need. So, states in rural areas receive a disproportionate amount of
    grant money. Incredibly, among the top 10 money-receiving states, only
    the District of Columbia also appears on a list of the top 10 most
    at-risk places.
        And while state officials are fighting over who will get the
    biggest share of the security money, reports demonstrate that they are
    spending these grants on pet projects that have little to do with
    homeland security. The District used the region's first wave of DHS
    aid to fund leather jackets for its police force, a computerized car
    towing system from the mayor's wish list and summer jobs programs.
        While Democrats seem content with the status quo, even hoping to
    increase the cash flows allocated in this manner, House Homeland
    Security Committee Chairman Chris Cox, a Republican from California,
    is fighting to change the criteria used to allocate these funds so
    that they are based on the risk of terrorist attacks and the magnitude
    of potential damages. But, Democrats like Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy
    of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, treat these
    funds like another entitlement program and vehemently oppose this
        Finally, large amounts are directed to addressing risks that are
    obsolete, which is unlikely the most efficient use of federal
    resources. After September 11, Congress rushed to federalize security
    screeners at almost all U.S. airports by creating the Transportation
    Security Administration (TSA). Three years after the federal takeover,
    the 45,000-employee bureaucracy has been inundated with complaints
    about its performance including a DHS audit that showed that passenger
    screening by the TSA doesn't keep explosives and weapons off
    commercial aircraft. This is not trivial since the bureaucracy will
    cost $5.3 billion in fiscal year 2005.
        Pointing out TSA's failures, House Aviation Subcommittee Chairman
    John Mica, Republican of Florida, advocates the return of all airport
    security screener jobs to the private sector. By law, this November
    airport managers will be allowed to ask for private screeners under
    federal supervision. Yet Democrats, who have been aggressively trying
    to create as many new unionized federal employees as they could,
    already announced that they will stop airports from booting TSA's
    workers. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Democrat of New York, even introduced a
    bill to repeal the opt-out provision.
        Spreading pork, opposing rational cost-benefit analysis and
    creating unionized federal employees won't make us safer. Is it too
    much to ask that homeland security spending actually have some
    connection with policies that reduce the threat of terrorism? Is
    creating union jobs more important than having the best screeners
    possible? Let's hope Mr. Kerry is forced to answer these questions
    during the second presidential debate.

        Veronique de Rugy is a research scholar at the American Enterprise

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