Naked City

Don't You Feel Safer Already?

The Governor's Task Force on Homeland Security, chaired by Land Commissioner (and lieutenant governor candidate) David Dewhurst, last week recommended 44 ways to make Texas safer from terrorist attacks. Despite having "heard the good news that Texas is amazingly well prepared to handle emergencies," the Task Force devised ways for the state to spend many, many millions of dollars it does not have.

The final price tag won't be determined for several months, but could run well over $1 billion. According to its report, "the Task Force intends that [its recommendations] be funded to the greatest extent possible with federal funds." Many Task Force recommendations are actually low-ticket; Dewhurst says $40 million should be enough to deal with more than half of the items on the list. These likely involve the bullet points built on passive, low-cost verbs, such as "Encourage public service messages to inform the public about what to do in the event of a terrorist threat," and "Seek legislation to require appropriate physical documentation to be maintained for all persons who change their legal name."

The Task Force's more sweeping and costly recommendations fall into two categories. Category A expands the size, budget, and authority of key security players, including the state Departments of Public Safety and Health, the Office of Emergency Management, the Texas National Guard, and their local counterparts. Category B emphasizes safeguarding potential targets -- for instance, requiring all Texas cities to designate hazardous-materials routes (currently only required by law in Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio), and mandating that new convention centers and sports stadiums have appropriate security measures for their air-conditioning systems.

Perhaps the most noteworthy recommendation is B-11: "Develop expected security standards for industries that have identified critical infrastructure assets and require such industries to submit Security Impact Reports." In other words, the Task Force hopes to extend elaborate security provisions which are federally mandated at nuclear power plants to cover every "critical asset" -- factories, refineries, power plants, hospitals, et al. The report lists 76 categories of potential targets.

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