After the war in Iraq began three years ago, Dakota County, Mn., got federal Homeland Security money to pay overtime to protect “critical infrastructure” — ranging from bridges to gas pipelines — from possible terrorism, says the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The county had to return nearly $87,000, because the money could be spent only when the nation’s security level was raised. Under revised guidelines, the Mall of America got approval for nearly $11,000 to buy a dog and to train it to look for chemicals. Minneapolis spent much of its remaining money on additional, two-person downtown patrols during the recent Christmas holidays. “As long as the money was there, I was going to use it,” said one official.
The $3.6 million that Minnesota received to pay for overtime to protect critical infrastructure — part of $200 million spent nationwide for that purpose — was only a small slice of the federal Homeland Security money that has come to the state since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. How the money was spent, and how guidelines governing it were altered, show how one program’s focus changed as time passed. How best to protect critical infrastructure — and what should receive such a designation — has been difficult nationwide. Critical infrastructure has “proven to be a challenge,” said Michael Greenberger of the Center for Health and Homeland Security at the University of Maryland-Baltimore.