The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI agree that the homemade explosive devices that have wreaked havoc in Iraq pose a rising threat to the U.S., reports the Washington Post. Lawmakers and first responders say the Bush administration has been slow to devise a strategy for countering the weapons and has not provided adequate money and training for a concerted national effort. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said that President Bush will soon issue a blueprint for countering the threat of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.
Among current shortcomings: Explosives-sniffing dogs are trained differently by various federal agencies, making collaboration between squads “difficult if not impossible.” Federal agencies maintain separate databases on bomb incidents. Bomb squad commanders have complained of inadequate training for responding to truck bombs. The Los Angeles Police Department’s bomb squad, which responds to about 1,000 calls a year, has 28 full-time explosives technicians and is about to move into a new, $8 million downtown headquarters. In contrast, the Washington, D.C., police bomb squad’s 10 technicians handle about 700 calls a year, but they are housed in portable trailers and must also perform crime patrols. Among the six U.S. metropolitan regions considered top terrorist targets, only the Washington area has not earned the top rating of a federal three-level scoring system for bomb squads. Regional officials will spend $7 million in federal grants to buy equipment to lift the rating.