As I’ve posted before I think most of the money the government spends on “security” is a stupid waste and it is a threat to our freedom (for example see Universal ID Card Fatal Flaws and Stop Intrusive Airport Screenings). Schneier, my security expert hero, got another editorial published where he talks about the waste portion of things:
Funding security based on movie plots looks good on television, and gets people reelected. But there are millions of possible scenarios, and we’re going to guess wrong. The billions spent defending airlines are wasted if the terrorists bomb crowded shopping malls instead.
And he tells us where the money should be spent:
Our nation needs to spend its homeland security dollars on two things: intelligence-gathering and emergency response. These two things will help us regardless of what the terrorists are plotting, and the second helps both against terrorist attacks and national disasters.
Money spent on emergency response makes us safer, regardless of what the next disaster is, whether terrorist-made or natural.
This includes good communications on the ground, good coordination up the command chain, and resources — people and supplies — that can be quickly deployed wherever they’re needed.
Similarly, money spent on intelligence-gathering makes us safer, regardless of what the next disaster is. Against terrorism, that includes the NSA and the CIA. Against natural disasters, that includes the National Weather Service and the National Earthquake Information Center.
The problem is politicians are very short-sighted. Far-sighted politicians have a near zero chance of getting elected. Can you imagine someone running for Governor of Louisiana on a platform of shutting down New Orleans and letting the Mississippi reroute itself 100+ miles to the west? It’s probably the right thing to do and would have saved thousands of lives. If our Federal government had been limited to it’s proper duties as defined in the Constitution economics would have forced them to “do the right” thing anyway. But the Feds ended up spending billions on the levees and flood control to fight a battle that we will cannot win. The question is how many times will the people of New Orleans lose this battle before the U.S. taxpayers say, “It’s time to face reality. Pack your things and leave.”