Hart and Rudman: Funds for first responders should be based on need

The government must reallocate resources to state and local first responders based on threat assessments and population and compel the private sector to take measures to protect the country's critical infrastructure, two former U.S. senators said today.

In an assessment of the nation's homeland security policies, former Sens. Gary Hart of Colorado and Warren Rudman of New Hampshire said the country is not prepared for another terrorist attack.

The biggest problem is that first responders do not have proper manpower or equipment to respond to emergencies caused by terrorist attacks, the former senators said, speaking at a homeland security conference at the Washington Convention Center.

First responders are not prepared to deal with an attack because the formula for distributing homeland security funds to states is based on all states receiving the same base amounts, when it should be based on threat priority areas and population, Rudman said. He added that homeland security grants are not spent well because there are few federal specifications and standards, although this issue is now under discussion.

Hart said around 40 percent of the U.S. troops in Iraq are reservists, most of whom serve as first responders at home. "By deploying and redeploying them in the Middle East, we are making this country doubly vulnerable," he said.

The former senators also said the government is doing very little to compel private industry to take measures to protect the nation's critical infrastructure. Private companies own about 85 percent of the nation's critical infrastructure, with government holding the remainder. Critical infrastructure, such as chemical plants, nuclear generators and cyber security, is an area of possible future attack by terrorists.

"The president ? must insist that the private sector play its role in protecting America," Hart said.

The government, Rudman said, should possibly set standards for the private sector to protect critical infrastructure.

As senators, both Hart and Rudman were co-chairs of the U.S. Commission on National Security/21st Century, also known as the Hart-Rudman Commission, which issued three reports outlining a new post-Cold War national security policy and predicting terrorist attacks in the U.S. The commission called for the creation of a Homeland Security Department in March 2001, before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. The Bush administration created the department in the aftermath of the attacks.

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