The Bush administration got a badly needed boost March 1 with the capture in Pakistan of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. Mohammed, who had been on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's most-wanted list of terrorists for months, reportedly was the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and the Bali nightclub bombing last October that killed 202 people.
Other victories may prove harder to secure. Osama bin Laden and his chief deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri are presumed alive and still at large. The administration seems committed to forcing Saddam Hussein to give up power in Iraq, despite opposition from France, Germany, the Turkish parliament and a broad cross-section of the American people. With support from British Prime Minister Tony Blair and an offer from the United Arab Emirates to provide exile for Saddam, the Bush team continues to press its case.
The economic uncertainty is taking its toll. The U.S. economy is stuck in neutral. Dow Jones Industrial Average closed last month below 8,000approximately 500 points below the level at the time of the attacks.
Within U.S. borders, the spotlight is intensifying on the new Dept. of Homeland Security. The department reached a milestone March 1 when most of the 22 agencies that comprise it were formally transferred under its organizational umbrella. DHS Secretary Tom Ridge now faces the challenges of melding these agencies and their varied cultures into a smooth running unit.
Bush's DHS Budget Highlights
|4.8||Transportation Security Administration|
|6.7||Customs, border protection|
|3.6||Office for Domestic Preparedness|
|6.0||Emergency Preparedness and Response|
|36.2||Total for FY 2004|
Source: Dept. of Homeland Security
At a Feb. 28 ceremony attended by some of those agencies' 170,000 workers, President Bush said that "every professional in the Dept. of Homeland Security plays a valuable role in winning the first war of the 21st century. For a vast and free nation, there is no such thing as perfect security."
"Today we all reported to work, not just as Customs and Border Patrol and Coast Guard or TSA or FEMA professionals or elsewhere, but as members of one team," said Ridge on March 3. "The new team is the Dept. of Homeland Securitysame team, same fight, same enemy."
But not everyone is sure that there is enough focus. "You have to define what threats you're going to defend against," says John Hennessy, CEO of the Syska Hennessy Group, New York City-based consulting engineer. "You try to defend against everything and you don't defend against anything. I don't hear any priority discussions or see evidence of progress on homeland security."
On Capitol Hill, Ridge is trying to sell Bush's fiscal year 2004 budget request for the new department. In all, Bush is seeking $36.2 billion for DHS in 2004, which represents an increase of 64% from pre-9/11 spending levels.
The private sector also is mobilizing. Clients are much more proactive than they were a year ago, says Tod Rittenhouse, principal with consulting engineer Weidlinger Associates Inc., New York City. East Coast clients are opting for blast-resistance retrofits, demanding film for windows and spray-on polyurea coating for block and brick surfaces. Building codes and insurance requirements are "probably a few years off from influencing the market," Rittenhouse says. "Right now, the leaders are a few high-profile clients who are voting with their rent."
Doug Fitzgerald, vice president and director of security technology for HDR Architecture Security and Technology Group based in Orlando, Fla., says clients also are decentralizing operations and moving information technology offsite. It's a daunting task. "We're trying to catch up with two or three decades of lax security and poor planning," he says.
Lawmakers of both parties on the appropriations committees will struggle to fit homeland security funding into an overall federal budget that already has shifted from surplus to deficit. A war against Iraq will plunge the budget deeper into the red.
"The economy is in dire shape," says a security consultant who works with state and county governments and private-sector clients. "One of the biggest deterrents is the federal government. They have yet to get their act together. There's no funding, no strategy to identify readiness shortfalls and rectify them. There's a lot of floundering. It's going to take months, maybe a couple of years for the government to become organized."
Democrats such as Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia argue that Bush has short-changed homeland security spending. But Ridge said at his budget briefing last month that the DHS request "is an extraordinary commitment. Some people in this town might think you construct a 10-story building by starting on the 10th floor. This is a long, difficult, challenging process. We're building a foundation."
Within the budget request, border and transportation security would receive the largest share, $18.1 billion. That includes $4.8 billion for the Transportation Security Administration, $6.7 billion for customs and border protection, $2.8 billion for immigration and customs enforcement and $3.6 billion for the Office for Domestic Preparedness.
The TSA total is down $362 million from the sum Congress recently approved for 2003. But Ridge says TSA had about $685 million in start-up costs that would not need to be repeated for 2004. The Coast Guard would get $6.8 billion under the Bush plan.
At a Feb. 26 briefingTSA's last under the Dept. of Transportationagency chief James M. Loy said it met the goal of screening 100% of passenger bags at the 429 major airports. About 95% of the job is done electronically. "Remember, we're installing 1997-vintage technology here and we don't need to overdo this if we think we have an investment in place that will yield for us, in the three- to five-year window, a next generation of technology for us to go to," says Loy, former commandant of the Coast Guard. He notes that some airports, such as Boston and Jacksonville, "stepped up aggressively and did on their own what they felt was necessary and appropriate to get the job done. They're going to look for reimbursement."
DOT Inspector General Kenneth Mead told the Senate commerce committee Feb. 11 that installing the existing generation of minivan-sized explosive-detection devices will cost about $3 billion. Airport officials say the tab will be $4 billion to $5 billion (ENR 2/17 p. 9).
"Now that we're past the hysteria phase...everybody's coming up for air," says Robert Prieto, CEO of New York City-based Parsons Brinckerhoff. He believes there will be a shift in airport security from the government back toward the private sector. "Ridge realizes that the federal government can't do it all."
Loy says Congress gave specific guidance on funding some elements, but not all of them. That "puts us in the position of defining what that protocol is going to be, and itemizing...the list of things that the feds are going to pay for and the list of things that they won't."
"Some of the figures that are being tossed around are based on an assumption that what we're going to [deploy] in-line EDS systems in a much more aggressive way than we have currently," says Deputy DOT Secretary Michael Jackson. He believes that as newer screening technology comes along to replace the equipment now going into airports, "we should hit the pause button here for just a little bit and determine whether or not we really have to do the massive reconstruction work that's associated with those much larger estimates." He adds, "We have to [decide] what we need and what we can afford before we leap headlong into the next massive expenditure cycle."
Prieto says the clamor for funding priorities should have begun already. "Everybody in New York should be down in Washington, banging on doors demanding that money be allocated to national security .Private-sector companies have been assuming that the external environmentpower, telephone and telecom service, and waterwill be secure and available. That's by no means a given."
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BUILDING FOR A SECURE FUTURE