Arizona cities are overwhelmed by homeland security demands and underwhelmed by federal money doled out this month, says the Arizona Republic. The state’s $38.6 million in homeland security grants is paltry considering that Maricopa County cities alone asked for $46 million.
Officials of some cities described the process as nothing short of a political cage fight. “There was a pot of money and we went in and fought over it,” said Gilbert Assistant Fire Chief Jim Jobusch. Glendale Fire Chief Tom Shannon said, “We tend to think of it as a gladiator pit,” he said. “It’s time for the cities to state their case, and sometimes it ends up being a little of a give-and-take. . . . No city is catching up.”
Grant recipients today will submit plans on how they intend to spend their allocation, including: A remote-control robot that can defuse bombs for Glendale; Thirty-five “self-contained breathing apparatuses” for Scottsdale. The suits and air tanks would help keep police alive in a chemical, nuclear or biological attack. Radio equipment for the state that would allow multiple agencies to communicate with each other.
The Arizona situation illustrates the conclusions of a study by the Council on Foreign Relations conlcuding that two years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the United States remains “dangerously unprepared” to handle another catastrophic attack. The Associated Press says the main problem is that emergency responders on the front lines — police, fire, public health and other officials — are drastically underfinanced and lack the equipment or training they need.
The council, a private advocacy organization, recommended spending $98 billion beyond the $27 billion it said the federal government planned to spend on first responders over the next five years. Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, said the conclusion that $98 billion more needed for first responders is “grossly inflated.” He said officials already have implemented or are in the process of putting in effect others of the report’s suggestions.