Terror, Security, and Money: Balancing the Risks, Benefits, and Costs of Homeland Security

By John Mueller; Mark G. Stewart | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
Conclusions and Political Realities

We have sought in this book to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of the ehanced expenditures on overall homeland security measures that have taken place since 9/11 (chapters 2–4) and then more specifically on measures designed to protect (chapters 5–7). Finally, we have put forward some comments about evaluating policing and intelligence matters, as well as ones concerning mitigation, resilience, and overreaction (chapter 8). In doing so, we have applied standard risk and cost-benefit evaluation techniques that have been accepted and used throughout the world for decades by regulators, academics, businesses, and governments, and we have presented our analysis in a fully transparent manner.

Our key conclusion is that, given the quite limited hazard terrorism presents, enhanced expenditures designed to lower it have been excessive, sometimes massively so. We are in agreement, then, with security expert Bruce Schneier when he concludes, “In general, the costs of counterterrorism are simply too great for the security we’re getting in return, and the risks don’t warrant the extreme trade-offs we’ve been asked to make.”1 Or as Michael Sheehan puts it, although “gargantuan budgets” will enhance our capability over time, “the cost-benefit ratio does not compute favorably.”2

We have not examined every aspect of enhanced homeland security in equal depth, but it is difficult to find many expenditures that, on balance, have clearly been a net benefit. Most enhanced homeland security expenditures since 9/11 fail a cost-benefit assessment, it seems, some spectacularly so, and it certainly appears that many billions of dollars have been misspent.

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