A study by a Washington research group concludes steps taken by the Bush administration to better protect the United States against terrorism are shortsighted and fall billions of dollars short of the amount of money need to prevent another terrorist attack on the scale of those carried out last September 11.
The Bush administration is calling for $38 billion in spending on homeland security in the coming year. But this just-released study by defense and national security experts at the well-respected Brookings Institution suggests the money and attention are not being spent where they should be.
For example, the report charges the Bush administration remains overly focused on preventing a repeat of the kind of attack that took place last September rather than reducing the nation's overall vulnerability to terrorism, something that Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge expects Americans are going to have to live with for a long time.
"The threat is real, in fact it is a permanent condition to which this country must permanently adapt," Mr. Ridge said.
The study calls for spending as much as $10 billion more than the administration wants in order to substantially increase the size of government agencies responsible for border security and preventing domestic terrorism.
Examples of security shortcomings are abound. In the past week, more than 100 employees at three Washington D.C. area airports were arrested after authorities found they were able to obtain badges giving them access to aircraft and baggage areas even though some had criminal backgrounds.
And, even though the nation is supposed to be on a heightened state of alert, Georgia Congressman Bob Barr has seen glaring security lapses at federal government buildings in Atlanta.
"Agents at buildings, security agents, failing to simply pick up and look at a security badge that is shown them," Mr. Barr said.
Similar lapses are seen even at government buildings here in Washington.
Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia is among those in Congress who is believes much more needs to be done to secure the nation. "I feel a little uneasy about the security of the American people and about the security of the homeland. We see nothing in the president's budget request, for example, no supplemental funds to address the problem of inspecting cargo, six million cargo containers, for example," Senator Byrd said.
A spokesman for the White House office on Homeland Security says officials there are reviewing the Brookings report.