Billions of federal dollars are flowing to state and local governments to help guard against terrorism and beef up emergency preparedness, but without greater oversight the money may be wasted, says a commission led by former Virginia Gov. James Gilmore. “Ten trillion [for homeland security] will make no difference if we don't know what we're spending it on,” Gilmore said yesterday as the panel issued its final report, reports Stateline.org.
State and local governments want and need standards for what equipment and technology to purchase as well as what kinds of training and exercises they should provide, panel members said. “The federal government has not given us an endgame,” said Patrick R. Ralston, a commission member and executive director of Indiana's State Emergency Management Agency. “We have had to work things out ourselves.” Indiana has undertaken its own efforts to coordinate statewide emergency responses, including a law mandating mutual aid agreements among all 92 of the state's counties and a catalog of emergency equipment throughout the state. The state cannot force first responders in each county to purchase equipment that will work in harmony with other counties, Ralston said.
Gilmore's panel said that lacking a “clear articulated vision” from the federal government, each state is moving to combat terrorism in its own way. “The Federal government is moving forward in many areas and simply expects states and localities to catch up,” the panel said.
The 17-member commission, made up of federal, state and local officials, first responders, security and public safety experts, and military representatives, was created nearly two years before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 to examine how the nation would respond to weapons of mass destruction.
The report recommends a streamlined process for giving security clearances to local law enforcement agencies and warns against violating civil liberties in the fight against terrorism.