Atlanta says it needs $307 million in federal funds to cover security and training costs the city has faced since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says that so far, only about $61.6 million has been approved for the entire state of Georgia, and some of it has not been paid.
“We thought $100 million would be new [federal] money” for homeland security, said Bill Hitchens of the Georgia Office of Homeland Security. It wasn’t. The rest of the $100 million was funding previously earmarked for existing federal programs in Georgia. The increase in funding for “homeland security” was in name only.
U.S. Sen. Zell Miller told Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge that Georgia is a prime terrorist target becauise of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hartsfield International Airport, the nation’s fifth-largest port at Savannah, and two nuclear facilities.
Communications is one area in which the state is lacking. A hodgepodge of radio systems makes it virtually impossible for agencies to communicate with each other at disaster scenes. “Our radios won’t talk,” said Mike Satterfield, chief of Hall County Fire and Emergency Services. “We have to have equipment that will talk to each other.”
On the other hand, Missouri and Illinois say they are getting plenty of federal security aid, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Among the items: “Twenty-four hour surveillance cameras now scan four river bridges in northern Illinois in search of terrorists. Newly hired epidemiologists stand ready to chase down attacking diseases in Missouri. Almost all police officers in both states will soon carry gas masks that might help them escape a chemical or biological weapons release.”
Washington has awarded more than $250 million in grants to Missouri and Illinois for homeland security. Emergency planners are buying equipment, adding training sessions, and hiring employees as other state and local agencies deal with falling revenue, budget cuts and layoffs.
“We’re in a real unusual situation where the state’s drowning in red ink and we’re swimming in money,” said Jim Wakeman of the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency, which tracks nearly $68 million worth of grants, nearly 100 times more than the office normally monitors.