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The new DHS budget spells out its new strategies. Yet they are likely to change over time as our understanding of the threat evolves. They are also subject to the internal politics of DHS's competing factions - a real problem in a department created by merging 22 separate agencies - and the external politics of a Congress that responds to public pressure in ways that may cloud broader strategic priorities.
Clearly, the discussion about risk has not yet ended. McIntyre, for example, wants to see cities pay for more of their own security needs. "If Orlando and Kansas City send money to Washington for an aircraft carrier, that aircraft carrier protects everyone in both cities," he says. "But if Washington sends that money to Orlando, how does it help Kansas City?"
Others believe preparedness is underfunded. P.J. Crowley, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a liberal-leaning think tank, notes that Congress cut support to first responders in FY 2006 by 17 percent to $3.3 billion, half of what the nation spends each month in Iraq. "Based on what we've seen in Madrid, London and Aman, major population centers with visible landmarks are targets, yet we're cutting funding. Chertoff is saying the right things, but he's not necessarily backing it up."
Crowley worries about changing threats. "The danger, to me, is that the perpetrators in Iraq have switched from quality to quantity. They think small. Instead of fuel-loaded airliners, we're seeing backpacks and vehicles loaded with explosives. There's a risk that we're not assigning enough resources to the actual threat we're going to see in the United States."
He also wants Congress to do more to protect critical infrastructure. Last year, he notes, Congress rejected a $1.4 billion bill to improve rail and transit security and set aside only $150 million. "That's about $5 million for each major metropolitan transit system," he says. "You can't do a comprehensive security program - patrols, police dogs, video surveillance, access controls - with that kind of money."
Port security is another vulnerability, he says. DHS will provide only $175 million in port security grants in FY 2006. "To fully implement port security, you can't get there from here," he says. Only the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach make money. Other ports require state subsidies and are not going to pour money needed for day-to-day operations into security upgrades. If they don't make the upgrades, everyone may be vulnerable eventually.
"If we're really in the midst of a war against terrorism, then the federal government should get us to a higher level of security as quickly as possible and then ask the states and local governments to sustain that," says Crowley.
This type of political back and forth is likely to set the agenda for years to come. Questions about risk and funding get worked out in budget debates. Which is why states, municipalities and companies seeking the treasure chest are likely to spend a lot of time interpreting clues.