An anti-terrorism program contracted to an industry lobbying group has prompted criticism from Democratic congressional overseers, agency investigators, former employees and watchdog groups, reports Politico.com. The program, Highway Watch, is run by the American Trucking Association, the trade group for large trucking companies. Begun in 2004 and awarded to ATA as a sole-source contract, the program was intended to engage truck drivers in the hunt for domestic terrorists. Critics say the program which has received more than $63 million in federal funds since 1964, has evolved into a promotional vehicle for ATA and is doing little to engage truckers in the fight against terrorism.
A report by the Homeland Security inspector general found that over 10 months the program spent nearly $10 million on administration and marketing, even though it had only about 14 direct employees. A better use of homeland security funds, said Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), would be to check commercial truck driver's license holders against the terror watch list and to secure vulnerable infrastructure, such as highly trafficked bridges and tunnels. Highway Watch spokesman John Willard defended the program, saying that in four years, it went from training 10,000 drivers to more than 750,000.