Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bordering on treason

Many Homeland Security initiatives are called flops
A high-tech "virtual fence" to catch illegal border crossers. Next-generation nuclear detectors at ports. Tamper-proof driver's licenses in every state.

These were signature Bush administration initiatives to protect the country against terrorism and secure its borders. All have been proven to be flops, according to government and outside experts, and expensive ones at that.

The Department of Homeland Security paid defense contractor Boeing Co. $1.1 billion to build what is sometimes called the virtual border fence. But the system of radars and cameras can't consistently tell terrorists from tumbleweed, according to the Government Accountability Office. In March, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano froze funding on the project.

Last May, the Transportation Security Administration removed 37 explosive trace detection machines - or "puffers" - that had been deployed at airports to screen airline passengers at a total cost of $30 million. They had maintenance problems and didn't work consistently.

"DHS was pushing technology pretty hard under the Bush administration, and we were willing to risk failure because of the risks," said Stewart Baker, the former Homeland Security policy chief

"Before they did the puffers, everybody told them it wasn't going to work," said Richard Roth, an aviation security expert with CTI Consulting in Maryland. "The only guy that said it was going to work was the lobbyist for the company."

Corporations "have figured out that a whole lot of money has been budgeted for homeland security and counterterrorism, and they're really eager to market all sorts of gigantic technological solutions," said Charles Faddis, a former CIA officer and author of "Willful Neglect: The Dangerous Illusion of Homeland Security."

"We end up in a situation where there's all sorts of very straightforward things that we don't do, because there's no money to be made in it," he said.

For example, Faddis said, the government should make greater use of explosive-sniffing dogs at airports and should require simple steps to counter vehicle bombs at industrial plants that store dangerous chemicals. Napolitano told Congress recently that she supports expanding the use of bomb-sniffing dogs.

The Department of Homeland Security is hampered by a shortage of procurement officials experienced in buying complicated systems, said Rick "Ozzie" Nelson, a homeland security specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank.
Yep. Blame it on the procurement clerks. It was all their idea.

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