The Corner

Wasting Homeland Security Funds

I was actually just distracted by the Elizabeth Vargas easy-chair outrage on my way to this NY Observer piece Rick Brookhiser put me onto: Madame Hillary’s (and the background senator Schumer) been fighting for all that homeland security money for NY. To protect, like, he Port Authority bus terminal and the Lincoln Tunnel, that kinda thing, right? Welll…and keeping Cattarugus county’s staff on wheels. Read this great opener from a guy who is probably out of a job today:

This year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security bought Edward Koorse a new Ford pickup truck.

If terrorists attack somewhere near Cattaraugus County, where Mr. Koorse is the director of emergency services, he will use the $27,000 truck to haul a huge trailer full of the decontamination equipment that the state bought him last year. But that scenario doesn’t seem very likely in the quiet farmland of southwestern New York State.

So in the meantime, Mr. Koorse uses the pickup to drive to work.

“I went no frills,” he said of his vehicle. “It doesn’t have the fancy-schmancy stuff.”

Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Mr. Koorse and dozens of officials like him in rural counties around the state have found themselves with more federal money than they know how to spend on their modest counterterror needs. The Observer reviewed the three main 2004 grant programs, based on figures from the state Office of Public Safety and interviews with emergency-management officials in 32 of the 57 counties outside the city. The results showed that most local officials spent the money filling existing needs with doubtful connections to stopping Al Qaeda.

For example, Ontario County (pop. 100,000) is purchasing a climate-controlled mobile command post, said Jeffrey Harloff, director of the county’s emergency-management office. Mr. Harloff will buy the vehicle with his share of the Department of Homeland Security’s main grant to the state. How will he use the command post? It depends on who’s asking.

“If it’s the federal government asking me, it is for the intended purpose of W.M.D. incidents and HazMat incidents,” Mr. Harloff said. “In reality, we’re going to use it for everyday stuff in our office.”…

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