Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

November 30, 2006

Chertoff admits error on NYC grant decision

Filed under: Risk Assessment,State and Local HLS — by Christian Beckner on November 30, 2006

It’s about time. From remarks by Sec. Chertoff yesterday, quoted in the New York Post:

We’ve come to the conclusion that perhaps there was a little too much bean counting and a little less standing back and applying common sense to look at the total picture,” Chertoff told a grant-writing conference.

“And I’ve heard the complaints about it, looking like we’re playing kind of a pop-quiz type of game with local communities,” he said.

“They have to try to guess what we’re looking for – and if they guess wrong, they don’t get the money that they think they’re entitled to, and that they may be entitled to.”

Back when the decisions were announced, I described the analysis that led to this decision as “garbage in, garbage out”, criticizing it for relying too much on illusory statistical certainty and not enough on a gut-check about threats. And when Sec. Chertoff tried to defend the decision in a New York Times op-ed, I wrote:

I think [Chertoff] needs to get out of PR mode and acknowledge that this decision did not live up to his own high standards for risk management, discuss the unique nature of NYC and DC in the nation’s risk profile, and listen to constructive criticism about how to improve the allocation process.

I’m glad to see that he’s come around to acknowledging this reality. Hopefully we’ll see a more robust grant process in FY 2007, one that doesn’t get falsely seduced by a 3.2 billion calculation spreadsheet, but instead uses this analysis as a support tool for informed grant decisions.

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