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Monday, October 18, 2004

Homeland security?

Allegedly, the President is slated to give a "significant" policy address today about the "war on terror." I suspect it will be about Homeland Security, which is featured on the White House webpage today:
Today, President Bush signed the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2005 to provide much-needed funds for our Nation's homeland security activities. This bill contains most of the Federal Government's investment in homeland security. With enactment of the remainder of the President's FY 2005 Budget, President Bush will have nearly tripled funding for homeland security activities since taking office.
I don't have time for a full analysis of the issue, but any claims of success are likely to be distorted. In the debates, for example, Bush falsely trumpeted huge spending increases for Homeland Security.

Matthew Brzezinski had a great article in the September/October Mother Jones, which provided a devastating critique of the Homeland Security agency. Brzezinski notes that the "new" funding reflects simple reorganization of government, as immigration and other agencies are now housed in Homeland Security rather than elsewhere. That explains about two-thirds of its budget.

The overwhelming majority of the new spending is for airport screeners, a job that was in the private sector before 9/11.

The article outlines substantial areas of failure, notably in protecting the US against potential catastrophe from an attack on a dangerous chemical facility. The author writes:
...a single railcar filled with 33,000 gallons of chlorine could kill up to 100,000 people...
Not good. Yet, Republicans listened and caved when the chemical industry lobbied effectively to block meaningful legislation that would have provided a lot more security.

Homeland Security says it tries to get industry to voluntarily take safeguards that would protect all of us.

Yeah, right.

First responders are underfunded. Most cargo coming into the goes uninspected. The Department purchased ineffective nuclear radiation detectors. It's a very good article and a devastating critique of this part of the "war on terror."

Little need now to watch Bush's speech, eh?

Update: Bush did emphasize this issue. "More of the same."

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