As much as $340 million in federal money to protect the Washington, D.C., area against terrorism has been spent without a coordinated plan or a system for measuring how safe the region is, says Congress’ General Accounting Office. The Washington Post says GAO criticizes the Department of Homeland Security’s regional office for failing to track the spending and being unable to tell Congress whether critical security gaps remain.
The study found cases of likely duplication in purchasing decisions, including $2 million spent by local governments on similar police and fire command vehicles or similar hazardous-materials equipment. Brian Roehrkasse, spokesman for Secretary Tom Ridge, said most of the grants GAO examined were issued through other federal agencies before the Department of Homeland Security was created. He said the last $60 million has gone through a more rigorous process. The department is adopting operational standards for police and fire protective gear and is working to set national preparedness goals by next year, he said. Another Homeland Security official said that “the federal government really shouldn’t be in the position of mandating, ‘Here is exactly how this will go.’ This is a give-and-take between developing national standards and making sure they fit in a regional and local context.”