Thursday, January 31, 2008

Turf war

What, exactly, do you think it will take for the federal government to get prepared for a catastrophic attack on the United States? If the Sept. 11 attacks -- when three planes were hijacked and flown hundreds of miles unimpeded until they crashed into major buildings (including the Pentagon), killing thousands -- weren't enough, just what will it take? Today's report from the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves should give all Americans pause. Officials at the Pentagon get paid a lot of money to work every day figuring out how to protect this country -- they probably have thousands of people devoted to this very subject -- and they don't have a plan for what to do in case of a chemical, biological or nuclear attack. "We looked at their plans - they're totally unacceptable," commission chairman Arnold Punaro, a retired Marine Corps major general, said yesterday after reviewing strategies developed by U.S. Northern Command, according to the Reuters international news agency. "You couldn't move a Girl Scout unit with the kind of planning they're doing," Punaro said. Northern Command is the Pentagon unit, created after the Sept. 11 attacks, dedicated to homeland defense. But the commission says the military has not dedicated sufficient resources to prepare for such a role, despite the creation of Northern Command after the 9/11 attacks. Why not? Well, the commission says one reason is tension between the federal government and the states over who will be in charge of the nation's response. Great. The future of the country is in doubt because of a turf war between government agencies? Hello? Isn't there somebody in charge in Washington?

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