Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Common Sense

Pragmatism has finally won out over politics -- well kind of. Via the NYTs:
Facing cuts in antiterrorism financing, the Department of Homeland Security plans to announce today that it will evaluate new requests for money from an $800 million aid program for cities based less on politics and more on assessments of where terrorists are likely to strike and potentially cause the greatest damage, department officials say.

The changes to the program, the Urban Area Security Initiative, are being driven in part by a reduction in the overall pool of money for antiterrorism efforts. For 2006, Congress has appropriated $120 million less in these urban grants than for 2005.

Domestic security grants in general, including the urban area ones, have been criticized because they have sent more antiterrorism money per capita to sparsely populated states like Wyoming and Alaska than to states like New York and California.
It's good to see pork isn't being dished out disproportionately to Dick Cheney's Wyoming, but isn't Congress being unduly paltry with anti-terrorism money? Spectacular terrorist attacks rank as one of the most dire security threats to the United States. Certainly NYC, LA, DC, and Philly rank as more symbolic targets for the likes of Al-Qaeda, but think about the fear an attack on say Mobile, Alabama would have on the American psyche. An attack on Anytown USA could have an even more devastating psychological effect because it would send the message that no one is safe.

Certainly some of the previous allocations smelt of swine, but we shouldn't be shortchanging smaller cities. Sure, money should be given according to risk and it should come with performance standards for accountability and transparency's sake, but as Don Thorson, administrator for the grant program in Omaha, rightly points out:
"We still are an urban area. And we still have risks. No one can predict where a terrorist might strike. Look where Timothy McVeigh struck. It was Oklahoma City."
After all, government's primary responsibility is to protect its citizenry. With all the pork that's served in Congress, legislators should be able to trim a bit more off other programs to ready America's cities, big and small, from terrorist attacks.