Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 14, 2006

NYT on Hal Rogers’ influence on homeland security spending

Filed under: Business of HLS,Congress and HLS — by Christian Beckner on May 14, 2006

The New York Times published an interesting story yesterday on Rep. Hal Rogers, chairman of homeland security subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, and his efforts to direct homeland security dollars to his Kentucky district:

The Department of Homeland Security has invested tens of millions of dollars and countless hours of labor over the last four years on a seemingly simple task: creating a tamperproof identification card for airport, rail and maritime workers.

Yet nearly two years past a planned deadline, production of the card, known as the Transportation Worker Identification Credential, has yet to begin.

Instead, the road to delivering this critical antiterrorism tool has taken detours to locations, companies and groups often linked to Representative Harold Rogers, a Kentucky Republican who is the powerful chairman of the House subcommittee that controls the Homeland Security budget.

It is a route that has benefited Mr. Rogers, creating jobs in his home district and profits for companies that are donors to his political causes. The congressman has also taken 11 trips — including six to Hawaii — on the tab of an organization that until this week was to profit from a no-bid contract Mr. Rogers helped arrange. Work has even been set aside for a tiny start-up company in Kentucky that employs John Rogers, the congressman’s son.

“Something stinks in Corbin,” said Jay M. Meier, senior securities analyst at MJSK Equity Research in Minneapolis, which follows the identification card industry, referring to the Kentucky community of 8,000 that has perhaps benefited the most from Mr. Rogers’s interventions. “And it is the sickest example of what is wrong with our homeland security agenda that I can find.”

Most of the facts in the story have been published before, but it does a good job of summarizing the relevant facts. The story might leave some readers with the impression that the homeland security budget is larded up with pork, but the main lesson that I take away from it is the opposite: that the extensive public scrutiny of the homeland security budget constrains special interest spending in the budget, as indicated by DHS’s decision to reverse course on Rogers’ TWIC-related earmark in the FY 2006 appropriations bill.

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