Last spring, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge expressed concern that local governments and citizens were ignoring his agency’s nationwide terrorism alerts and the color-coded warning system that accompanied them.
USA Today says the Bush administration’s new approach to alerts is: It’s not issuing nationwide alerts so often. After issuing four terror alerts during the first eight months the color-coded system was in place, the administration has gone almost six months without imposing any. The level remains at Code Yellow, meaning an “elevated risk” of a terrorist attack.
Homeland Security officials say they have become better at dealing with potential threats against specific regions or industries,without putting the entire nation on alert. Local officials had complained about the cost of maintaining the elevated threat status, particularly in areas that weren’t the focus of the threats. To save money, some officials scaled back their responses.
Homeland Security spokesman Brian Roehrkasse acknowledged that rising police overtime and other costs contributed to the push for alerts that have been more focused and discreet. “We are not doing away with the system,” he said. “The process has become more refined, and information is being passed on more efficiently to the people who need it, in the places where it is needed.”
“When the alerts first started, there was some real confusion,” Pittsburgh Police Chief Robert McNeilly Jr. said. “When we get information now, we have a better idea about what it means and how we can assess it.”