A Question Of Priorities

A story in today’s Washington Post should really call into question exactly where the priorities of the GOP and the Bush Administration really lie.

The rhetoric from the Right lately revolves around their contention that the Liberals are soft on terror and that if they gain control in November, that supposed softness will lead to increased terror strikes. On the surface it seems like it would be a good tactic and in the past it has been. Recently though it seems like this agenda has lost some of its legs as opinion polls are beginning to reflect the nation’s growing doubts of the GOP’s ability to do what they say the Left is unable to do, protect America.

The latest story that supports the public’s growing belief that the Right has its priorities out of whack deals with government funded research in the area of terror technology.

The federal research agency in charge of countering emerging terrorist threats such as liquid explosives is so hobbled by poor leadership, weak financial management and inadequate technology that Congress is on the verge of cutting its budget in half.

The Homeland Security Department’s Science and Technology Directorate has struggled with turnover, reorganizations and raids on its budget since it was established in 2003, according to independent scientists, department officials and senior members of Congress.

One would think that from the time our country became embroiled in this “war on terror” that began in earnest when our commercial aviation industry was used as a weapon against us on 9/11, that preventing this tactic from being used again would have become a high priority. 4 years ago that was, at least publicly, the case as the government formed the Department of Homeland Security and spent billions on outfitting the airports with most of the available detection technology in an attempt to prevent similar attacks from happening again.

Since then what has happened? For starters the DHS has become a severely over-managed, poorly run, and underfunded agency that seemingly spends more money sending it’s managers on all expense paid trips to exotic locations then on hiring and retaining qualified personnel and pretty much ignoring the changing threats facing our country by investing in new technology.

“There was a period that actually very little was getting done . . . even though this was something that everyone thought would be heavily funded,” said Fred Roder, manager of the explosives countermeasures portfolio at Homeland Security from 2003 to 2006. Lost in the scramble was research to secure aviation cargo and to prevent car and truck bombs, he said.

Disputes over money delayed by two years the testing of walk-through “puffer” machines designed to detect explosive residue at checkpoints, said Tony Fainberg, a private consultant who oversaw explosives and radiation detection at DHS in 2003. Ninety of the devices were finally installed at U.S. airports over the past year.

Ok, we have pretty much lost 4 years of staying ahead of the terrorists but at least now you would think that we are aware of the issues and are working to straighten things out right?

In a 2007 spending bill awaiting a vote after the August congressional recess, the Republican-led House would cut spending by the Science and Technology Directorate from $1.3 billion to $668 million. Congress noted about $250 million in unspent agency funds.

Republican and Democratic senators are offering the agency $712 million, but in a budget report cited the agency’s lack of goals, mystifying accounting and unspent money, and called it a “rudderless ship.”

So what exactly are the priorities of the GOP? They are quick to slam liberals as being soft on terror but it sure seems that other than devising legally questionable spying programs and generating more terrorists in Iraq, they don’t appear to have a clue when it comes to securing our airports, railways, and ports. Will it take another successful terrorist attack for our government to realize this or will we continue to be relegated to reacting again after the fact as has been our history during the Bush reign?

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