In the wake of the Sept. 11 disaster in this nation, all states have been put on alert for terrorist activities.
Without a doubt we must all be appropriately concerned about the dangers to society and we must make plans accordingly. But at the same time, common sense should prevail.
Now I would assume that Missouri would not necessarily be on top of a terrorist list of targets. Sure we've got some prime opportunities if the terrorist network were to stretch across the breadth of this great nation. But speaking realistically, larger population coastal communities and centers of government are far more likely targets.
So why are Missouri officials requesting $280 million from the federal government to prepare for terrorist attacks? Even state officials acknowledge that the amount is a rough estimate, hastily drawn. It seems an unrealistic figure to me and it seems more a money grab by Jefferson City than an appropriate plan for state preparation.
Here, let me put it another way. The requested amount would total $2 million for each and every county in the state plus a cool $50 million for St. Louis and Kansas City. Now I'm sure that's not the way state officials would split the pie but it illustrates the overkill proposed by the state. Given this breakdown, can you imagine each county having a $2 million terrorist budget? Come on folks, let's get real!
Thus far, Missouri has spent $700,000 to prepare for terrorist attacks. Most of that money has gone for additional personnel to deal with the potential of biological terrorism.
I cannot imagine how state officials could conceivably spend $280 million for preparation. The amount has the potential of simply creating another large bureaucracy that hopefully will never be utilized. And in the process it creates a massive drain of federal dollars that could be put to much better use.
We recognize that Missouri is suffering a budget shortfall. But to fund a biological expert in each county and to equip each county with anti-terrorist equipment seems like money ill-spent. It would look like a small investment should a terrorist attack Missouri. But what price do you attach to this preparation?
There are some instances where we must look to the federal government for assistance. But to propose a massive federal dollar drain - which this is - is not necessarily money well spent.
Missouri officials need to revisit the terrorist budget and arrive at a more realistic figure. In my book, $280 million far exceeds realism.