SEPTEMBER 08, 2011
As the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks approaches the U.S. government still lacks a system to adequately protect the nation, despite investing hundreds of billions of dollars and huge amounts of manpower to fulfill the mission.This may seem unbelievable to most Americans considering that a monstrous federal agency (the Department of Homeland Security—DHS) with more than 200,000 employees and a $50 billion annual budget was created after the 2001 terrorist attacks. Never the less, typical of government, the investment has not quite paid off for U.S. taxpayers.A new congressional audit released this week reveals that DHS must still address “weaknesses” and “gaps.”Over the years a number of probes, conducted by the same investigative arm of congress (Government Accountability Office—GAO) have reached similar conclusions. You’d think that DHS would have ironed out most of the kinks, considering the nation’s safety is at stake and all.Among this probe’s findings is that DHS still lacks an effective system to detect foreigners who overstay their visas like some of the 9/11 hijackers did or a reliable tool to detect explosives in luggage at airports. Despite investing huge sums of money, the agency has failed miserably to develop enhanced explosive detection technology that could help prevent another terrorist attack.DHS has also failed to ensue that air cargo screening is being properly conducted, the GAO found. This is nothing new and in fact has been documented in various audits over the years. As early as 2007, federal investigators found that only a small percentage of air cargo bound for the U.S. from foreign countries is inspected.Separate probes have exposed shameful lapses in security at many of the nation’s busiest airports. During covert exercises, guns and bombs regularly got past inept airport screeners from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the Homeland Security agency created after 9/11 to secure mainly aviation. The agency also came under fire for approving background checks for a dozen illegal immigrants working in sensitive areas of a busy U.S. airport.These are all serious lapses that have occurred over the years and continue to take place. That’s why this latest tenth anniversary GAO report doesn’t bother making recommendations. In fact the GAO points out that it has made “about 1,500 recommendations to DHS” and the agency has “addressed about half of them.”
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