Wednesday, July 12, 2006

How homeland security funds are being distributed

Here's an interesting CNN article:

Security funding list: Bean fest, but not Times Square?

Here are a few interesting snippets:

A Homeland Security database of vulnerable terror targets in the United States, which includes an insect zoo but not the Statue of Liberty, is too flawed to determine allocation of federal security funds, the department's internal watchdog found.

Much of the study by Homeland Security Inspector General Richard Skinner appears to have been done before the department announced in May it would cut security grants to New York and Washington by 40 percent this year.

The report, which was released Tuesday, affirmed the fury of those two cities -- the two targets of the September 11, 2001, attacks -- which claimed the department did not accurately assess their risks.

Instead, the department's database of vulnerable critical infrastructure and key resources included an insect zoo, a bourbon festival, a bean fest and a kangaroo conservation center. They represent examples of key assets identified in Florida, Illinois, Indiana, and Maryland.

This whole thing is in response to cuts in Homeland Security funding to NYC and DC, while seeing substantial increases in, shall we say, more rural states.

Coming from a computer security background, I have some rather unpopular views on how money should be spent to protect the United States. When I say 'unpopular', I don't mean extremist, but rather they are a product of a rational and pragmatic approach to security rather than public sensationalism. I believe security is all about trade-offs and have costs (whether they be financial or in terms of civil liberties), and I don't necessarily think we do everything in our power to make the world 'safe' from terrorism no matter the cost.

If you're interested in learning more about how to evaluate the cost of security, I would highly recommend picking up a copy of Bruce Schneier's Beyond Fear (ISBN 0387026207 available on Amazon for $15.75).

Here's another really good academic paper written on the costs of Homeland Security (sorry, it's a PDF):