June 02, 2006

No soup for you!

from - RSA

Tapped has today been filled with posts about the allocation of terrorism preparation funds: mainly away from DC and New York and toward smaller cities like Charlotte, NC, and St. Louis, MI. The Times gives an explanation from the Department of Homeland Security as follows, for the case of New York City:

The federal agency distributing $711 million in antiterrorism money to cities around the nation found numerous flaws in New York City's application and gave poor grades to many of its proposals.

New York's funding was cut by 40%. While there are good arguments to be made for and against allocating money to smaller potential terrorism targets, it's plausible to ask whether politics had a role to play. The process was described as being objective, involving peer review, and drawing on models of risk constructed by experts. I'll be watching the news for the next few days. If the process was really as open as the DHC claims, it should be possible to understand why they reached the results they did.

I have my doubts, given the Bush administration's opinion of openness and accountability. Here's the thing: One of the arguments the DHS makes against giving New York and DC more funding is that their proposals for using the funding were flawed. But it should be obvious that in the evaluation of the risks of terrorism, there are both problems and solutions. If you think that a problem is very dangerous and a proposed solution is inadequate, then one possibility is that funding should be granted to improve the solution. Let's take an extreme hypothetical case: next year New York City forgets about the deadline for submitting proposals for antiterrorism funding, and at the very last minute submits a single paragraph written in crayon on a page torn out of a notebook. A totally shabby proposal. Based on what seem to be the DHS's criteria, that should count significantly against New York's getting funding. But that doesn't seem right. Even if New York and DC's proposals were not well-conceived, that just the kind of issue that an influx of funding could address.

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Posted by RSA at June 2, 2006 12:14 PM
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