Locals want more help, less 'baloney'

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

help.

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

been done."

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

planning.

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.

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