Security Beat

By Fein, Geoff S. | National Defense, September 2003 | Go to article overview

Security Beat


Fein, Geoff S., National Defense


Report Blasts U.S. Homeland Security Program

The Bush administration has earned a grade of "D" for its "surprisingly lax and inadequate" efforts to protect America, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Progressive Policy Institute. A 27-page report, released in July, concluded the president "has given homeland security more lip service than action."

While the administration has destroyed al Qaeda cells in Afghanistan and removed the Taliban from power, "building up America's domestic defenses" has been a different story, the report states.

"... The Bush administration has been oddly lethargic in fortifying our defenses at home," the report says. "... It consistently dragged its feet."

The study gave the president failing grades for integrating terrorist watch lists, improving identification systems, completing a national threat assessment and for lessons learned from previous attacks.

"While integrating terrorist watch lists is not technologically difficult, the administration has failed to do so despite congressional funding for the task," the report said.

The administration did get passing marks for nuclear power plant security ("A"), passenger security ("B-"), baggage security ("C+"), and securing nuclear plants and materials ("C+").

"The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, in reaction to the Sept. 11 attacks, quickly issued heightened security regulations for all nuclear power plants," the report said. "Overall, the nuclear power industry has spent nearly $400 million on additional security since the attacks."

Corporate Spending on Security Lagging

A report from The Conference Board, in Washington, D.C., states that "corporate America's overall spending on security in response to terrorism has increased only modestly."

The study, co-sponsored by ASIS International, said the median increase for security spending since Sept. 11, 2001 is just 4 percent.

Median security spending is up about 9 percent in New York, Boston and other key cities in the Northeast, the report said, but has risen less than 3 percent in other parts of the country.

"A 4 percent median increase in security spending seems counter-intuitively small in light of our concerns about terror," said Daniel H. Kropp, president of ASIS International, a firm that represents security professionals.

Only 7 percent of the businesses interviewed for the study, increased their security spending by at least 50 percent. Industries most likely to step up spending are in transportation, energy, utilities, financial services, media, telecommunications, information technology and healthcare, according to the report.

"While nobody knows how much security spending is enough, there are legitimate concerns about corporate vulnerability," said Tom Cavanagh, a security expert at The Conference Board, a non-partisan, not-for-profit research organization.

About 24 percent of the companies surveyed had a chief security officer, the study found. "Few apparently are interested in creating this relatively new position," the report said.

Most companies, in fact, employ less than 50 people to oversee security needs. However, many companies do turn to private security consultants to augment their own staffs, the report stated.

Tight budgets and widespread cost cutting also affected security spending, Cavanagh said.

"There are only two sources of funds to expand security spending-corporate money or government funds and incentives," he said. "Business leaders are reluctant to spend more on security, when they don't see it contributing directly to their bottom line."

Federal Government Falls Short in Cybersecurity

More than 90 percent of all successful attacks on Defense Department computer systems are based on vulnerabilities that already are known, said a top National Security Agency official.

"A system left un-patched soon becomes a target, like an unlocked sports car with the keys in the ignition," said Daniel Wolf, director of information assurance at the National Security Agency. …

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