Procurement: April 2, 2003


Homeland Security: The Pork Store is Open- When crime rates soared during the 1960s, Congress jumped in with legislation that provided federal dollars to assist communities in strengthening their police forces. A lot of money was spent, but it had no noticeable effect on the crime rate. Perhaps that was because "throwing money at a problem" doesn't necessarily solve it. More likely it was because of where the money was "thrown."

Rather than funnel the federal dollars to areas experiencing the most problems, the bulk of Uncle Sam's contribution to "the war on crime" ended up being spread around for political purposes. So rural sheriffs got spanking new patrol cars and many small town police departments ended up with heavily armed, well trained SWAT teams that never once were called upon to exercise their unique skills. And crime continued to soar for a couple of decades more.

Now we're confronted by a new rush to spend, this time in the name of "Homeland Security." And once more we seem to be "throwing money" everywhere but where it's needed.

For 2003 Congress appropriated nearly $600 million to assist states in improving security from terrorism. Reason would suggest that where the threat is greatest should dictate where the bulk of the funds go. Of course reason has nothing to do with it. 

While there are potential terrorist targets everywhere, it would be hard to argue that certain jurisdictions are more likely to be the targets of terrorists than others, because the high visibility an attack might yield or for the potential damage that might result for our governmental, military, industrial, and financial infrastructure. A short list of these can quickly be devised: California, Texas, and New York, which also happen to be the most populous states, as well as the District of Columbia. 

On paper, these "states" seem to have gotten substantial funds in the '03 budget; California, $45 million; Texas, $30 million, New York, $26.5 million; DC, $4.9 million. But look again. The $600 million allocated to homeland security in the '03 budget amounts to about $2.15 for every American. Now go back and rerun the figures. In fact, only the District of Columbia received a share of the funds commensurate with its population and the threat. On a per capita basis, three most populous states, which also happen to be "target rich" environments, received the smallest allocations -- California, $1.33; New York, $1.40; Texas, $1.42 -- ranking 51st, 50th, and 49th among the 51 "states." The District of Columbia received $8.58 per capita, making it the second ranking "state" in terms of receipt of Homeland Security funds. 

Quite a number of "low threat, low risk" states have received enormous allocations: Wyoming is 1st, with $9.76 per capita; Vermont, 3rd, with $8.15; Alaska, 4th with $7.97; North Dakota, 5th, with $7.76. 

Are our efforts to fund the fight on terrorism a matter of "deja vu all over again"? -- A. A. Nofi




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