As Congress debates spending nearly $3.5 billion next year to help states and cities prepare for future terrorist attacks, some current spending is questionable, reports USA Today. A spokesman for Republicans on the House Budget Committee says, “For the rest of the year, we will be watching this very, very closely.”
In Washington, D.C., city officials in February gave former mayor Sharon Pratt a $236,000 contract to advise the city on how to prepare for a bioterrorism attack, even though she has no experience in at subject. In New York City, the police department spent $282,000 on emergency respirators for transit workers only to find out that the masks didn’t even protect against tear gas. In Arlington, Va., home of the Pentagon, county Fire Chief Ed Plaugher is buying new regulators for his employees’ air tanks after discovering that the old ones failed tests to see whether they would protect against deadly agents like sarin and mustard gas.
Experts say the New York City and Virginia cases show how easy it is to waste precious homeland security dollars.
Randall Larsen of the ANSER Institute for Homeland Security, a think tank, says it was a mistake for officials to install chemical detectors in the Washington, D.C., subway system.
“If someone releases a gas in the subway, people are going to start falling down and screaming and yelling,” he says. Bodies on the ground, he says, would let authorities know a deadly gas had been released.