First responder funding inadequate, study says

| 7/1/2003

The United States remains “dangerously unprepared” to handle another catastrophic attack, according to a study by the Council on Foreign Relations.

The report said police, fire, public health and other officials lack funds, equipment and training.

The council, a New York-based private world affairs advocacy organization, recommended spending $98 billion beyond the $27 billion it said the federal government planned to spend on first responders over the next five years.

Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, said the conclusion that an additional $98 billion is needed for first responders is “grossly inflated,” The Associated Press reported.

The council's task force was led by former Sen. Warren Rudman, R-N.H., with Jamie Metzl, a former National Security Council and Senate Foreign Relations Committee official, directing the project.

Rudman said the government must take immediate steps to ensure that the nation's emergency officials are prepared to respond to a chemical, biological or radiological attack.

“We are dealing with the possibility of tens of thousands of casualties. And we must deal with it. This is not a question of, `Can we?' It's a question of we must,” Rudman said on NBC's “Meet the Press.”

The report found that, on average, fire departments across the country have only enough radios to equip half the firefighters on a shift and breathing apparatuses for only a third.

The commission included former White House adviser Richard Clarke, former FBI and CIA director William Webster and former military officials, business leaders and Nobel laureates.