Thursday, August 04, 2005

Border Security Funds Disappear

Despite the Bush administration's tough rhetoric, it is increasingly clear that the "war on terror" isn't a real priority in Washington, except when it comes to justifying pork barrel spending and Wilsonian military misadventures. Along the US-Mexico border, where millions (literally) of aliens illegally enter the US every year, the money appropriated to augment border patrol capabilities hasn't left Washington.
Technology needed to guard against terrorist infiltration is not reaching the Arizona border, and a top regional official with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security says the reason is federal bureaucrats have misspent money reserved for that purpose.

As much as $60 million that Congress approved for wireless communications technology used by federal security agencies has been spent on bureaucratic expenses that have nothing to do with the program, said Charles Cape, the zone manager for the agency’s wireless initiative in the Southwest, which includes Arizona.

That has left the nation’s southern border vulnerable and hindered efforts to ensure all federal, state, tribal and local agencies can communicate in the event of an attack, Cape said.

Congress allocated $100 million specifically for the national wireless initiative at homeland security in 2004 and $86 million this fiscal year, which runs until October, according to congressional appropriations reports and agency officials.

But none of that money has reached Arizona, said Cape. 'I’ve never seen one dollar since I’ve been out here,' said Cape, 64. 'There’s nothing. They’ve sucked it all up at headquarters.'

Cape has filed complaints with the department’s inspector general and the independent Office of Special Counsel, seeking investigations into whether money designated for wireless technology has been misspent.
And what of Arizona's congressional represenatives? They are too busy for such mundane matters as border security...
Members of Arizona’s congressional delegation said they were not aware of Cape’s allegations until they were contacted by the Tribune. Rep. J.D. Hayworth, R-Ariz., had his staff contact Cape for more information after Hayworth was interviewed by the Tribune.

Homeland Security officials would not comment on Cape’s allegations.
Cape, who was put in charge of the region in June 2004, said he grew frustrated after he learned money was not available for basic systems that would greatly enhance security at the border with Mexico. When he began checking on why no money was available, he learned it had already been spent for other projects in violation of congressional directives, he said.

In an e-mail exchange last January with a top Homeland Security administrator who has knowledge of the wireless budget, Cape warned that misspending the money reserved for wireless systems 'has set up the Dept. for possible failure and has in my opinion not served the country well.'

The Tribune agreed to Cape’s request to withhold the name of the administrator. Cape said the individual has tried to stop the misspending, and had no way of knowing the e-mail would be turned over to the media when it was sent.

'I don’t know where you get your intel from, but you are correct about the ’04 money . . . not good,' the administrator replied. 'I have been trying to tell our bosses that the wireless money is intended for TACTICAL COMMUNICATIONS . . . not (Department of Homeland Security) infrastructure or some other (information technology) projects. In my opinion, the redirection of wireless monies is exactly why all of our tactical wireless systems are 15 and 20 years old . . . and our guys and gals in the field can’t do their jobs.'
Isn't this exactly the sort of scandal that should merit a congressional investigation? If the US Congress can hold hearings to determine if overpaid, pampered, egocentric baseball players are taking steroids (a question of the most pressing concern to national security), shouldn't thye be able to do the same when Washington bureacrats are squandering the funds meant to prevent Islamist fanatics from infiltrating the US? Don't hold your breath. The US Congress has made it clear that it doesn't care about federal mismanagement of taxpayer dollars, nor does it care about the collapse of the US-Mexico border. What is needed is a special prosecutor to indict the president and most members of congress for malfeasance due to their failure to defend the territorial integrity of the US and their mismanagement of taxpayer funds. But, it will never happen.

What will almost certainly happen is that Mr. Cape will shortly be forced to leave his job. The powers that be in Washington (including Arizona's congressional delegation) really hate it when anyone points out what they are really doing with the taxpayers' money.