by David Phinney
Friday July 12th 2024



Deterrence Budget Explodes
U.S. Government Now Spends $6.6 Billion on More Than 40 Programs

By David Phinney
Call it Anytown, U.S.A.—complete with a subway, downtown office buildings, homes for 20,000 residents, an electric company and sewage plants.

Nobody will live there.

Nobody would want to.

The proposed $200 million city will provide a training ground for professionals to learn how to handle biological and chemical weapons attacks.

Five states are bidding for the Defense Department mock city project, with plans to be decided sometime in 1998. That such a plan exists demonstrates just how concerned the federal government has become over the possibilities of terrorist strikes and learning how to respond to them.

“There are today emerging threats not only from rogue states, but also from terrorists that could affect American forces around the world and also threaten domestically the United States,” notes National Security Council spokesman P.J. Crowley.

The project is just one in hundreds launched by the federal government in the past two years to address terrorism threats.
At least 40 different government offices are part of the nation’s still loosely organized effort, with a total price tag of $6.6 billion on terrorism-related programs, according to the General Accounting Office.

Not everyone is convinced that the money is well spent.

“For the past 20 years, experts have been predicting terrorists will use weapons of mass destruction, but isn’t it amazing that they haven’t been used?” asks Ehud Sprinzak, a terrorism expert with the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C. “Before this country commits hundreds of millions of dollars, there ought to be some cheap studies to answer that question.”

Perhaps the biggest increase in responsibilities has gone to the FBI, which has seen its anti-terrorism budget more than double since 1994.

The money pays for everything from gas masks and rubber suits to multimillion-dollar biolabs that can handle the world’s most virulent germs and lethal chemicals.
While most concede that an attack with biological weapons is hard to pull off, an effective deployment could be difficult to detect in its early stages. Among the army’s defensive weapons: special Humvee vehicles mounted with the latest high-tech gear engineered to identify as many as four different germ weapons in under an hour.

An Alphabet Soup of Programs
So many programs have blossomed, in fact, that critics claim the agencies are stepping all over each other with a sort of alphabet soup at their feet: The Energy Department runs a program called NEST and is planning to launch BEST. The FBI has DEST, while FEST can be found at the State Department, and MMST at the Department of Health and Human Services.
Most visible has been the Chemical and Biological Quick Response Force. Part of a broader $400 million Pentagon program, CBQRF began assisting cities last May in training exercises to respond to biochemical or radiological terrorist attacks. The exercises also rely on the expertise of the Federal Emergency Planning Agency, the Energy Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Health and Human Services Department.

After conducting a threat assessment, the FBI recommended that 120 cities take the training, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Houston, Kansas City, San Diego, Philadelphia and Denver. In 1997, 26 cities went through the drills.
“There are some things we are just not comfortable with talking about and this is one of them,” said Bruce Brodoff, spokesman for the New York Office of Emergency Management.

Defense Dept. Seeks Bigger Role
Many more programs are operating today, or being proposed. Most recently, the National Defense Panel, an advisory group mandated by Congress, advised that the Defense Department focus more on threats of terrorist strikes. It recommended that the 400,000-member National Guard take charge of defending citizens from attacks and coordinate responses to chemical and biological strikes.

The Defense Department has requested an OK from the Food and Drug Administration to distribute drugs to the general public in the event of a biochemical attack.
Under direction of the U.S. Attorney General’s office, a presidential commission on infrastructure recently warned that “cyberterrorists” may soon attack critical networks with the use of computers and other high technology. The panel claimed that the nation’s networks of telecommunications, transportation, and financial institutions are all at risk to high-tech sabotage.
But prevention may be the key to averting a sweeping terrorist strike.
“Draconian measures are not going to help. What this comes down to is the public has to feel comfortable to call authorities when they feel suspicious,” said Dr. Richard Ward, who heads the Office of International Criminal Justice at the University of Illinois in Chicago. “Intelligence is critically important.”
And as a bit of encouragement, the federal government offers big cash rewards for tips leading to the arrest of terrorists. The FBI allows as much as $500,000, while the State Department has pledged as much as $4 million


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