Pilot Error?

“This is the ‘security’ we’re getting for the billions of dollars we’ve laid out?” That was the question we asked in our previous commentary, and “billions” wasn’t a misprint.

Before Congress recessed for the fall elections last month, our lawmakers appropriated still another $ 34.8 billion for the Department of Homeland Security, even though the DHS “…hasn’t announced the design of the programs, or what company will implement them”… nevertheless there’s a lot of groping going on, and a lot of money being spent.

One pilot program being watched over in the Port of Hong Kong has radiation detectors and gamma-ray imaging machines at two of the port’s 40 incoming lanes. Trucks pass through the scanners at 10 mph, enabling the devices to scan as many as 4,500 trucks per day. As in every system espoused by our guardians, however, there are glitches in this one as well. Unfortunately, the program was designed only to see if the containers could be scanned, but no one is looking at the thousands of images the scanners have created. That doesn’t seem to discourage those who feel it to be their bounden duty to fritter away taxpayer dollars though.

And further, U.S. officials are also concerned that some ports don’t allow truck drivers to stay in their vehicles during the inspection process and may require a machine to tow one truck after another through the scanners … a tipoff that some additional R&D funding needs to be frittered away.

A “consortium” in Maryland has what they feel is an even better idea. A shoe-box-size sensor is being developed by this group, and they’re claiming that this box would allow authorities to monitor cargo containers from thousands of miles away. The device would be placed in a container and would notify authorities the instant a container is tampered with. And the glitch in this one? Each device “is expected to cost about $ 1,000”. Let’s see now. At $ 1,000 per cargo container, 12,000,000 containers annually (and climbing), would mean that the frightened taxpayers would be getting a bill for $ 12,000,000,000, if this system gets the green light. [Looks like Congress will no doubt be compelled to call an emergency session to handle this important matter … last month’s $ 34.8 billion appropriation isn’t anywhere near enough to fund this latest scam … er, scheme.]

Remember what George Mascolo wrote in “DER SPIEGEL” early in July? “According to a government study’, he wrote, “thus far only four of the Department of Homeland Security’s 33 homeland protection programs are considered effective, leading the new Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, to promise Congress that he’ll be taking a closer look at how the department spends its millions. But despite Chertoff’s promises, the booming industry’s prospects remain as rosy as ever. Indeed, the Secretary recently told a gathering of 400 industry executives that the government still depends on their help. ‘We need to make America a safer place,’ he said – to roaring applause.”

[And we commented back then … “Meanwhile, the nation’s real imminent catastrophe, transportation gridlock, is being ignored.”]