Ridge: States must submit plans for spending homeland security funds

The systems put in place to respond to a national emergency worked effectively during last week's electricity blackout, but more must be done to ensure the nation can prevent or respond to future crises, Tom Ridge, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, told the nation's governors Aug. 18.

"It's not just a matter of putting billions of dollars into the system. We need to make sure at all levels of government that we are building up a national capacity," Ridge said during the governors' annual meeting in Indianapolis.

Ridge urged each state governor to submit a statewide plan to the Department of Homeland Security by the end of the year. The plan should detail how to distribute funds effectively to state and local government to support a national communications and information-sharing network capable of preventing and responding to attacks or reducing vulnerability to them.

The governors should use the statewide template that the Homeland Security Advisory Council created, Ridge said.

Congress has provided $4 billion in 2003 and will provide $3.5 billion to the states for first responders in 2004, Ridge said. Homeland Security plans to have a one-stop shop in place by the end of the year to make it easier for first responders to obtain grants.

Ridge also said his agency would provide $150 million this year to establish pilot projects in all states for interoperable communications.

The nation's governors announced they have either spent or obligated 80 percent of the funding for first responders that was appropriated in fiscal 2003. According to the governors, this shows that having the states disburse first-responder funds to local governments did not add an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy as some critics contended.

Federal homeland security funding should flow through the governors, because states play a unique role in managing local and regional networks of law enforcement, emergency first responders and equipment, said Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who are the Washington-based National Governors Association's lead governors on homeland security.

The governors agreed with Ridge that homeland security will work only if federal, state and local governments coordinate efforts and work together as partners.

"State and local government must be equal partners with the federal government in our ongoing efforts to maintain the nation's homeland security," Minner said. "In the face of possible terrorist threats, we cannot overstate the importance of consistent federal planning guidance and the need for a stable, multiyear federal funding commitment."

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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