Security spending requires Pennsy lawmakers' scrutiny

August 22, 2002|by BOB MAGINNIS

The State of Pennsylvania has spent so much on homeland security since Sept. 11 that even the director of that effort says other sources of revenue must be found to continue the effort.

Justifying the need for such expenditures as necessary for the safety of the general public will win more support if officials can show the spending truly enhances citizens' safety.

This week the Associated Press reported that $200 million has been spent so far on post-Sept. 11 security measures. About $50 million of it was federal money this year, but how much Uncle Sam will send the Keystone State in 2003 is unknown now.

Where's it going? In addition to getting 100 new troopers, the state police will get $73 million in other new money, $45 million of which will go toward an information-management system.


The police force at the state capitol will get 114 new positions, in addition the new barriers at the foot of the Capitol building steps designed to stop a truck loaded with explosives.

Other cash will go toward work to enhance computer security, track outbreaks of suspicious illnesses and create a new emergency digital radio network. The disease-reporting apparatus will replace an old method, in which doctors sent letters to the state Department of Health, while the new radio network will link 23 different state agencies.

Other proposals include development of a so-called "Smart Card" system that would identify the skills of firefighters and other emergency workers - and identify them on the scene of any disaster.

There's been little objection to the spending so far, because if terrorists do strike again, no one wants the state to be unprepared. But as the U.S. Congress noted when it put the brakes on creation of a Homeland Security Department, there is a danger that in trying to do everything at once, essential details will be missed.

The challenge for lawmakers is to make sure that in their haste to make Pennsylvania secure, they're not just throwing money at the problem.

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