June 30, 2003

Don't worry, we're on it

While the Administration is cutting taxes (and thus government revenues), a new report from the Council on Foreign Relations says the country is dangerously unprepared for terrorist attacks. Two members of the panel which issued the report were on the News Hour last night: Senator Warren Rudman and former NSC counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke. They recommend spending 98 billion dollars to improve emergency response infrastructure, from people to equipment. Some choice bits:

FORMER SEN. WARREN RUDMAN: We took a number of months talking to every emergency group in America: Police chiefs, firemen, fire chiefs associations, hospitals, emergency medical technicians and so forth. And we simply asked the question: if a chemical or a biological attack were to occur, or a nuclear or radiological attack, are you prepared to deal with it? The answer was universally no.

I want to make it clear we're not here to criticize anyone: the Congress, the administration. It's not surprising that even coming up on two years that we're not prepared, but the firemen and policemen, who are our first line of defense certainly are entitled to the same kind of equipment going into their form of combat that our troops had in Iraq. They need interoperable communications equipment. They need chemical and biological protective gear. The public health agencies need ways to decide what we're dealing with.

And the fact is that these people - and this is where all the information came from - told us unequivocally, they are not yet prepared and they're a long way from it. And that really is almost indisputable.


MARGARET WARNER: But let's go back to their criticism that the numbers you came with, for what's needed, are inflated. How did you come up with that? How did you prevent all the people on your task force - police and fire fighters and so on - just from giving pie in the sky wish lists?

RICHARD CLARKE: Well, they did. We worked with them. Senator Rudman used to work on the Appropriations Committee. He knows how to ask the tough questions. The fire associations gave us requests for $85 billion. We worked it with them, and we went through and we knocked it down and knocked down to 30-something billion dollars. The number doesn't include any number for police departments.

And we're firing 80,000 police around the country. It's hard to believe this. But in an era of terrorist threat, 80,000 police around the country are being given their pink slips. We don't include any money for that in this. We really low-balled the number. (My emphasis)

Go: read the entire segment. Then ask yourself if the country is spending its money wisely by cutting taxes rather than helping out the states with their budget crises, so they can pay for those EMTs, cops, and firefighters. A spokesman for the Dept. of Homeland Security said the council's new study contains little new information except for the huge sums of money it recommends, and added that many of the report's other recommendations have already been suggested by the Bush administration or are being implemented. The folks on the ground who spoke to the CFR panel haven't been told about those recommendations or plans, it seems. DHS seems to be treating this like just another partisan attack against the Administration, rather than the findings of a blue-ribbon panel; don't forget that Rudman chaired, with Gary Hart, a similar panel before September 11. That one concluded the country wasn't prepared for a terrorism attack back then, too.

Posted by Linkmeister at June 30, 2003 09:21 PM

Scary stuff, and it makes me wonder if the administration is hoping there's another attack. That way they can pass even more draconian measures under the guise of security.

Then again, another attack could prove to be Bush's undoing, since he's supposedly so tough on terra.

Posted by: The Other Scott at July 1, 2003 01:54 AM