EDS exec puts Homeland on alert

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"EDS taps Engler"

John Engler, the new president of EDS' state and local government division, urged the Homeland Security Department today to pinpoint terrorism alerts for specific areas that may be threatened and not issue warnings nationwide.

Engler, a former Republican governor of Michigan, said the cost of raising the alert level nationwide has been enormous for state and local governments at a time when they are facing severe budget crises. State governments are facing a collective $60 billion budget shortfall.

"America is a vast country," Engler told AFCEA International Inc.'s Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C. "Some of our states are larger than a European country. Consideration should be given to a refined system of threat alerts, which could be focused on specific states, counties, municipalities or even unique locations like monuments and American icons of interest to terrorists."

Engler said that Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge must act judiciously when he decides to raise the warning because it costs millions of dollars to increase security.

When security threat levels are raised nationwide, first responders end up working overtime, vacations are canceled and in some cases, more people must be hired, he said. "For example, I don't believe the threat in Butte, Mont., to be the same as the threat to New York City, and both are under the same threat condition," Engler said.

Engler also said the federal government should avoid imposing federal security requirements on the states unless they can help pay for them.

"The added burden of doing that to meet the many unique contingencies associated with terrorism has become more than most state budgets can bear in this economy," Engler said.

The Homeland Security Department decided today to lower the national alert level to "yellow" from "orange" where it had been for the past three weeks.

There was no immediate comment from the department on Engler's suggestion. However, a joint statement by Ridge and Attorney General John Ashcroft said the decision to raise the alert status Feb. 7 was based on "specific intelligence corroborated by multiple intelligence sources."

The White House, meanwhile, acknowledged that there is not enough money to adequately protect against terrorist attacks on American soil. In a speech to the National Governors Association, President Bush blamed Congress for failing to come up with enough money for state and local governments to pay for counterterrorism training and equipment.

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