Saturday, August 12, 2006

Homeland Security Mean Foreign Wars to Bush

The Department of Homeland Security continues to fail in its named function, "homeland security." When it comes to developing and deploying technologies that would be able to detect potential dangerous substances in airline baggage, Bush's homeland security crew is years behind the curve.

Lawmakers and recently retired Homeland Security officials say they are concerned the department's research and development effort is bogged down by bureaucracy, lack of strategic planning and failure to use money wisely.

The department failed to spend $200 million in research and development money from past years, forcing lawmakers to rescind the money this summer.

The administration also was slow to start testing a new liquid explosives detector that the Japanese government provided to the United States earlier this year.

While finding the time to determine that an Ohio petting zoo might be a terrorist target, the Department of Homeland security hasn't been able to figure out how to spend funds allocated to defend aircraft from potential terrorist bombs.

For more than four years, officials inside Homeland Security also have debated whether to deploy smaller trace explosive detectors — already in most American airports — to foreign airports to help stop any bomb chemicals or devices from making it onto U.S.-destined flights.

A 2002 Homeland Security report recommended "immediate deployment" of the trace units to key European airports, highlighting their low cost, $40,000 per unit, and their detection capabilities. The report said one such unit was able, 25 days later, to detect explosives residue inside the airplane where convicted shoe bomber Richard Reid was foiled in December 2001.


Tony Fainberg, who formerly oversaw Homeland Security's explosive and radiation detection research with the national labs, said he strongly urged deployment of the detectors overseas but was rebuffed.

"It is not that expensive," said Fainberg, who recently retired. "There was no resistance from any country that I was aware of, and yet we didn't deploy it."

Fainberg said research efforts were often frustrated inside Homeland Security by "bureaucratic games," a lack of strategic goals and months-long delays in distributing money Congress had already approved.

"There has not been a focused and coherent strategic plan for defining what we need ... and then matching the research and development plans to that overall strategy," he said.

Doesn't this sound like standard operating procedure at DHS and, for the matter, the Pentagon and the White House?