National Security

  • Much of the responsibility for overseeing federal homeland security grants was shifted away from Washington after the Sept. 11 attacks and placed on a single office in each state designated by the governor to be in charge of the money.

  • Just a few years after the Sept. 11 attacks, which killed 184 people at the Pentagon, citizens living in the nation’s capital became less concerned about emergency preparedness. So says a report by Washington, D.C.’s Office of the Auditor released in March of 2009.

  • Washington State set the standard for transparency and completeness in responding to open-records requests with information about homeland security grant spending for this project. We even used computer records supplied by authorities there to show others how we’d like to receive the material.

  • In our profile of Pennsylvania, we described how emergency managers there faced tough criticism over the poor handling of a winter storm in 2007 that led to what Gov. Ed Rendell publicly described as a “total breakdown in communications.” He heard about the storm’s severity from stranded citizens, not officials. Pennsylvania wasn’t alone.

  • Authorities in the state of Wyoming refused to turn over detailed records showing how federal homeland security grants have been used there since 2001. As with other states, we were seeking computer records containing individual grant transactions hoping to detect larger trends in how local beneficiaries have invested the money.

  • The nation has committed billions of dollars to improving homeland security since 2001, including large sums awarded to states in preparedness grants. In this CIR web exclusive map, reporter G.W. Schulz reports how authorities in each state have managed, or mismanaged, anti-terrorism funds from the federal government.

  • The nation’s first homeland security secretary, Tom Ridge, in 2003 pointed to West Virginia as an example of preparedness done right while standing on the steps of the state capital building in Charleston. “Your regional approach and your use of common training, exercises and equipment is setting an example that the other states must follow,” the Charleston Gazette quoted him as saying.

  • Temperatures reached brutal lows. Repeated blizzards shut down the highway system leaving road crews working 24-hour days. Motorists were trapped, and massive snow drifts virtually buried houses. Thousands of livestock expired. Then snowmelt caused near-biblical flooding. More than 2,200 square miles of land were soaked in water, an area the size of two Rhode Islands.

  • It’s a world apart from New York City, different in almost every conceivable way. But Oklahoma City is essentially the only other place in America that’s experienced something comparable to the Sept. 11 attacks. The incident is added almost as an afterthought in discussions about terrorism to remind us that the threat is domestic in nature, too.

  • So-called “needs assessments” are critical for determining where a community is vulnerable to catastrophe or terrorism. The federal government has required them of states in order to justify how they planned to use the $29 billion in homeland security grants Washington has handed out since Sept. 11. What safety and law enforcement equipment might be necessary to fill known security gaps?