The open checkbook era for the U.S. anti-terrorism colossus that may have spent $690 billion over a decade may be nearing an end, says the New York Times. The next administration may face a decision: Has the time come to scale back security spending, eliminating the least productive programs? Or, with tumult in the Arab world and America still a prime target, would that be dangerous? Many security experts believe a retrenchment is inevitable and justified. “After 9/11, we had to respond with everything we had, not knowing what would work best,” said Rick Nelson, a former Navy helicopter pilot who served in several counterterrorism positions and is now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “That's a model we can no longer afford, financially or politically.”
Any move to trim the counterterrorism bureaucracy will face daunting opposition. Some Americans will worry that cutbacks could put them at risk. Members of Congress will fear being labeled soft on terrorism. Lobbyists will fight to protect the lucrative domestic security sector. No Congressional criticism of counterterrorism programs has been quite so scathing as a bipartisan Senate subcommittee report this month on more than 70 “fusion centers” nationwide, created to help federal, state, and local authorities share threat information. The two-year investigation found that the centers had failed to help disrupt a single terrorist plot, even as they spent hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars and infringed on civil liberties.