Locals want more help, less 'baloney'
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Jan 27, 2003
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
A congressional lawmaker said today that the American people are not prepared
for a terrorist attack and the federal government isn't doing enough to
Although great guidelines exist for citizens to follow for hurricanes,
earthquakes and other natural disasters, Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.) said that's
not the case for terrorist incidents.
"Right now there are none for terrorism except be vigilant," she said.
"The how's and why's should be supplied by the national level, and it's
alarmingly past due."
Myrick, a former mayor of Charlotte, N.C., also criticized the federal
government for not yet distributing the promised $3.5 billion in first responder
funding, calling it "ineffective, inefficient, bureaucratic baloney."
Myrick was the keynote speaker at a half-day homeland security conference
regarding the role of state and local governments. The event was sponsored
by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington, D.C., think tank.
Several state and local officials from Charlotte, New York and Washington,
D.C., outlined what they have done to shore up security in their own jurisdictions
and what's still being planned.
All said that more needs to be done and that they're looking for financial
help from the federal government to buy more equipment, train more personnel
and deploy more programs by bringing more people to the table.
Chris Furlow, director for state affairs at the Office of Homeland Security,
said there has been progress on the hometown front. "Congress has provided
much of the funding for those initiatives, so I can only say that work has
He said funding should go through state governments, because it's too
difficult to deal with 18,000 jurisdictions "each seeking their own way."
The new Homeland Security Department will have an Office of State and
Local Coordination within the Office of the Secretary, Furlow said. Its
role is "in essence to be driven by the concept of customer service," he
said, meaning that state and local officials can use it as a one-stop shop
where they can get the right contacts and programs.
He said department officials also are looking to create a unified grant
program and will reach out to the private sector, because industry controls
85 percent of the country's critical infrastructure.
"As Secretary [Tom] Ridge pointed out in remarks just after he was sworn
in on [Jan. 24], there's no question we have a long way to go, but...DHS can
provide a key vehicle — it won't be the end-all, be-all — but it is a
key vehicle for moving forward where we can make it easier for state and
locals on homeland security issues to protect their citizens," Furlow said.
Arnold Howitt, executive director at Harvard University's Taubman Center
for State and Local Government, said state and local governments have made
real gains since Sept. 11, 2001, as shown by training and exercises, cross-agency
and some cross-jurisdictional dialogue and planning, security vulnerability
and risk assessments and integration of counterterrorist planning into emergency
But he also said that much more must be done, including more specialized
training, a greater capacity to manage events that extend geographically
and over a long period, more communications and systems interoperability,
and greater integration between the public and private sectors.
However, he said the political climate for homeland security is "inhospitable"
at this time because of competing priorities and the fiscal crises faced
by many states and municipalities.
Howitt called for, among other things, stronger federal financial incentives
as well as leadership in the form of technical assistance and the establishment
of standards. However, that could be clouded as the federal government focuses
on reorganizing itself and on a possible war with Iraq.