"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance

 and a people who mean to be their own governors

 must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."

Monday, July 18, 2005

Federal Funds For Transit Security Go Unused

The Senate has been debating homeland security funding and Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Jon Corzine (D-NJ) have been demanding more money for transit security. Schumer and Corzine’s demands might seem reasonable until you read that hundreds of millions in federal funds available to upgrade the security of our area’s transit system have gone unused. From the New York Observer:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has been asleep at the switch, despite having access to an abundance of federal funds. Although the authority committed $600 million in 2002 to upgrading security, it turns out that only $30 million of that money has been spent. Furthermore, the authority walked away from a deal with the U.S. Army that would have installed some of the Army's most advanced anti-terrorism technology in our mass-transit system. This reckless disregard for the safety of millions of residents and commuters is outrageous.

Almost all of the $30 million that the M.T.A. has spent has been on consultants and studies, with little to show on the ground. Now that word has leaked out that $570 million in security funds has been gathering dust, the M.T.A. is loudly proclaiming that it will spend $300 million by the end of this year. That's all well and good, but those projects will likely take years to complete. Had they been started in 2002, they'd be coming to fruition right about now.

Most shockingly, the M.T.A. abandoned a deal with the Army that would have brought the latest security technologies--some of which are used in Iraq--to our subways, buses, bridges and tunnels.

Soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, the M.T.A. hired a longtime police commander, Louis Anemone, as its security director. Mr. Anemone and M.T.A. executives quickly embarked on a series of weekly meetings with Army officials, who were eager to apply the latest anti-terrorism technology to New York.

Army engineers had an array of innovative devices to offer, such as smart cameras, infrared sensors and radars, which would alert the police if anyone entered a vulnerable area of the transit system. They had plans for protecting the Lincoln and Holland tunnels by severely restricting access and using devices that would disorient any intruder, such as by firing rubber bullets.

The collaborative effort, which had the approval of the Department of Defense, seemed like a win-win, and the initial stage would cost only $250 million--well within the $600 million budget.

So what happened? In May 2003, the M.T.A. fired Mr. Anemone and his deputy after the two men had made allegations of corruption on an unrelated matter. Both are suing the authority, asserting that they were unjustly dismissed. Mr. Anemone's replacement as security chief, William Morange, decided that he wasn't interested in working with the Army, and the project was dropped.
The Governor of New York, George Pataki should be banished to the ash heap of political history for his failure to ensure the funds were spent to improve security of the country’s largest mass transit system. Senator Schumer and Corzine should familiarize themselves with the facts before demanding more money from taxpayers.




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