DENVER – Governments around the country are scrambling to reorganize state agencies in preparation for possible terrorist attacks, but with budget crises taking hold and federal assistance stalled in Congress, reform efforts have added up to a financial nightmare.
State homeland security offices have been popping up since the Sept. 11 attacks, and all states now have some sort of security and preparedness effort. But funding remains hard to come by.
Colorado has a homeland security office, but it has no state funding, and its handful of full-time employees are borrowed from other state agencies. That includes director Sue Mencer, who also heads the Department of Public Safety.
"We have limited resources to accomplish the task that we have to," said Allen Turner, a manager of the office.
After the terrorist attacks, all states were required to have a single point of contact for the national Office of Homeland Security. They have also been promised a share of about $3.5 billion in federal funds designated by President Bush for planning and security efforts.
But the federal assistance has yet to materialize, held back by budget battles in Congress.
"It really has put states in a tough situation because a lot of the state legislatures are going into session and, as they try to do their budgets, they have no idea what they're going to get from the federal government," said Molly Stauffer, who analyzes federal security funding for the National Conference of State Legislatures.
NCSL analyst Cheryl Runyon said few states have appropriated any money for their security offices. And almost all states are limping under large budget deficits that must be erased before the end of the fiscal year.
"We're not seeing hiring of brand new staff or additional staff," Runyon said. "A, the money isn't there, and B, most of the emergency management directors have made the argument that the way you respond to a terrorist attack would be similar to the way you respond to any other disaster."
Neither the NCSL nor the Council of State Governments could say how many states had appropriated funds for their security offices. Many are relying only on federal funding, the groups said.
In Virginia, the office of the director of commonwealth preparedness operates on federal grants, Director John Hager said.
"Too many people sit around and wail about not having any money where they ought to sit down and get things done," Hager said. "We've been supported in many instances with federal money and (various state) agencies one way or another are able to expand their ability or capability to carry this out."
"There's a lot of stretching going on," he said.
Missouri's Office of Homeland Security has received about $500,000 in state funding to create a plan to protect critical infrastructure such as roads, bridges, communications systems and banking.
"We, like everybody else, are held hostage to our fiscal crisis and to the decisions of Congress," said Tim Daniel, the state's homeland security director.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., criticized the Bush administration for failing to help states, saying Friday that a survey of 40 New York counties and municipalities found that 70 percent had received no federal funding for homeland security. She said these governments had spent $2.6 billion on anti-terrorism measures.
Last week, commissioners from cash-strapped counties criticized Congress for delays in approving the $3.5 billion in assistance promised by the Bush administration.
"It is terribly important that we have the appropriation from the Congress so we can be one nation together, ready to respond," said Jane Halliburton, a county supervisor in Story County, Iowa.
Ken Mayfield, a commissioner in Dallas County, Texas, and president of the National Association of Counties, called the lack of funding a "travesty."
"It's like sending soldiers into battle without weapons or training," he said.
Amy Call, spokeswoman for the White House Office of Management and Budget, said last week that the administration continues to support the $3.5 billion figure.
"The president felt strongly that the first responders were a key part of the homeland security strategy and we will continue to fight for the president's priorities in the appropriations bills, but in the end Congress does have discretion," she said.
In Colorado, Turner said a security plan to tie together various public health and safety functions should be released this spring.
Turner, a former State Patrol captain, said officials want to ensure the plan meshes with the national homeland security strategy, which itself has been delayed.
"This is new to everybody," he said. "Doing it in a big hurry is not the way to accomplish what we need."