Vulnerability report on 2008 track

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A Homeland Security Department official said a comprehensive assessment of the nation's preparedness and vulnerabilities will be ready in 2008.

Matt Mayer, acting executive director of the Office of State and Local Government Coordination and Preparedness, said the National Preparedness Goal and National Preparedness Guidance will be released March 31. They will essentially establish measurable priorities and targets, assess the nation’s preparedness to major events, prioritize needs, help states implement national strategies, and allocate resources.

They will help state and local governments do a better job of first responder training and exercises, and align equipment standards and research and development needs, among other things. The goal is also to compare the level of preparedness they need with the level they have achieved, identify the gaps and then close them.

Mayer said his office is responsible for implementing Homeland Security Presidential Directive 8, issued Dec. 17, 2003, to help the nation develop a unified strategy to prepare state, local and tribal governments prevent, respond to and mitigate disasters, including terrorism.

Preparedness is a shared national responsibility, said Mayer, who gave the keynote address today to a Heritage Foundation-sponsored panel on federal grants to state and local governments. More than 5,000 entities from government and nongovernment organizations have taken part so far in developing standards and priorities, he said.

Federal agencies have provided about $13 billion to thousands of jurisdictions to help them improve their capabilities. However, the means of sending that money is a concern to DHS officials, said Mayer, who cited a recent incident in which several news outlets incorrectly reported that Newark, N.J., used DHS funds to buy sanitation trucks.

"You will find occasions where money is spent that does not fit our agenda," he said. "That’s not to say it happens a lot."

But he said 14 audits were conducted during the past year by the inspector general, Government Accountability Office and others. None found it to be a systemic issue.

Andy Weis, senior counsel for the House Homeland Security Committee, said he didn’t think there was a question of fraud in using homeland security funds, but a question of a lack of standards. He said some investments might have been unwise.


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