IEDs, or Improvised Explosive Devices are killing American soldiers in Iraq. In Massachusetts people are dying from more prosaic things: auto accidents, heart attacks, homicides and suicides. IEDs aren’t on Death’s Menu in Massachusetts. So naturally the Bush-Chertoff Department of Homeland Security wants to protect Massachusetts citizens against IEDs:
Juliette N. Kayyem, the Massachusetts homeland security adviser, was in her office in early February when an aide brought her startling news. To qualify for its full allotment of federal money, Massachusetts had to come up with a plan to protect the state from an almost unheard-of threat: improvised explosive devices, known as I.E.D.’s.
The demand for plans to guard against improvised explosives is being cited by state and local officials as the latest example that their concerns are not being heard, and that federal officials continue to push them to spend money on a terrorism threat that is often vague. Some $23 billion in domestic security financing has flowed to the states from the federal government since the Sept. 11 attacks, but authorities in many states and cities say they have seen little or no intelligence that Al Qaeda, or any of its potential homegrown offshoots, has concrete plans for an attack. (New York Times)
State and local public safety and public health officials are faced with shrinking budgets, declining morale and mounting problems with fewer resources. So the Bush administration, via its pinhead Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff, knows they will do almost anything for a pittance of extra cash. So they load up federal grants with “security theater” requirements which guarantee the money is wasted. Not just wasted. Much worse are the knock on consequences of distorted priorities and personnel reassignments to security leaf raking activities, causing the abandonment of routine public health and public safety tasks to avoid laying off long time employees. So in the end we are like the man who goes to the Bush emergency room to be treated for a broken leg and is told they would be glad to give us a rectal exam.
Everyone knows the Bush administration is counterterrorism crazy. Everyone knows they are also stupid and incompetent. So everyone tries to work around them, like dealing with the crazy rich uncle who makes no sense but whose support you need. The states have been creative in dressing up their proposals in counterterrorism garb to allow them to secure more generally useful equipment. But it is a wasteful way to work when resources are scarce.
In one effort to crack down on what Mr. Chertoff referred to as “mission creep,” Homeland Security officials last year imposed restrictions on use of a heavy truck by the police in Providence, R.I.
The truck had been bought with federal counterterrorism money, based on a plan that it be used to haul a patrol boat used for port security. But when the Police Department began to use the truck instead to pull a horse trailer, federal authorities sought to draw the line, relenting only after local officials protested in a phone call with Washington, said local and federal officials.
I don’t know why the truck was being used to draw a horse trailer but one has to conclude it wasn’t needed for its primary mission, either. Given the choice of money spent on a heavy truck or something the Police Department in Rhode Island really needed, I’m guessing something else would have been purchased.
But what do I know? I didn’t even know roadside bombs were such a common problem in Rhode Island, either.