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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

U.S. Counterterrorism Bureaucracy Grows

The rapid increase in U.S. counterterrorism efforts since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has created competition between agencies and new levels of bureaucracy without producing a straightforward strategy for the war against terrorists, the Washington Post reported today (see GSN, April 20).

The federal government has spent $430 billion on domestic and foreign counterterrorism efforts in the last five years, with the budget for domestic security programs this year set at up to $60 billion. State and local agencies have spent additional billions.

The Homeland Security Department now manages 22 domestic agencies, while the National Intelligence Office since 2005 has overseen 16 agencies distributed among various Cabinet-level departments.

New agencies, some seemingly with the same tasks, have sprung up throughout the federal government, the Post reported. These include the Defense Department’s Counterintelligence Field Activity and Joint Intelligence Task Force for Combating Terrorism, the Intelligence and Analysis Office at the Treasury Department, and the FBI National Security Service. No agencies have been eliminated to make way for these new offices.

The Bush administration argues that the absence of another major terrorist attack indicates the success of its efforts.

“We’ve done a great deal” since the Sept. 11 attacks, said one counterterrorism official. “There’s a lot more we need to do. A lot more.”

“The American people ought to have some faith that we’re working on it,” the official said.

Critics have said the growing bureaucracy has led to chaos rather than clarity.

“It’s as if we’re at 2002 and not 2006 in terms of where we are,” said Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), a member of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Intelligence and security agencies are embroiled in turf wars, while important deadlines are being missed, according to the Post. Homeland Security has yet to submit a list of critical infrastructure demanded by Congress, while work is slow to prepare an information-sharing plan for federal, state and local governments.

The National Counterterrorism Center this summer submitted a 160-page plan that could address some of these problems. The document offers counterterrorism goals and designates which government agencies and offices are to make those goals reality (Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, Aug. 9).
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