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Thursday, September 16, 2004

Homeland Security on a Shoestring

"At $40 billion, the [Dept. of Homeland Security budget] sounds impressive at press conferences and allows the president to say that he is spending big bucks not just in Baghdad, but at home as well. But that number is somewhat misleading. For one, about a third of that total doesn't go to DHS, but to other agencies such as the Pentagon. And most of the remaining $27 billion is not new money--as opposed to the $150-plus billion that has been spent toppling Saddam Hussein. Much of it simply lumps together the pre-existing budgets of the 22 federal agencies that make up the department. Between them, the Coast Guard, Customs, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Lawrence Livermore National Lab alone accounted for $19 billion in federal spending before 9/11. The Transportation Security Administration and its roughly $5 billion annual budget are new expenditures, but most of the other agencies have received only marginal increases since being folded in DHS...

The financial crunch is most keenly felt by the people on the front lines--at ports and borders, among firefighters and hospitals, transit authorities, biohazard labs, and rail hubs--who are invariably understaffed, underfunded, and ill-equipped. Just to properly outfit emergency personnel with radios that work at the same frequency, and prevent the tragedy that occurred when firefighters and police at the World Trade Center could not warn one another of the buildings' impending collapse, $6.8 billion is needed, according to a study by the Council on Foreign Relations. But not only are first-responder programs slated for large budget cuts in 2005, the Bush administration and the FCC are considering giving the radio frequencies earmarked for the public safety communication spectrum to private telecommunication companies, a $5 billion gift."

-from Fortress America by Matthew Brzezinski

But fear not. Brzezinski reports that the DHS is hiring a $136,466/year director for their "Entertainment Liaison Office in Hollywood." The department may not have enough money for police radios, but at least they'll look good in the movies.


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