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Homeland Security

Analysis: Shoring Up the Home Front

Council on Foreign Relations

February 20, 2007
Prepared by: Eben Kaplan

This month Congress is considering legislation to better monitor foreign ownership of U.S. infrastructure and keep companies overseas from gaining too much sway over vital national security assets. With 85 percent of U.S. critical infrastructure already in private hands—both foreign and domestic—skeptics say any new Congressional regulation would have minimal impact on infrastructure security. Far more important than who owns it is the condition of our infrastructure, argues CFR Senior Fellow Stephen Flynn. His new book, The Edge of Disaster, suggests aging roads, levees, waterways, and electrical grids leave the United States unduly vulnerable to catastrophic terrorist attacks and natural disasters. Flynn will discuss the problem in a Wednesday evening webcast.

The devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina underscores the danger of neglecting infrastructure. The decline of the levee system in New Orleans was well documented before its complete failure. Afterwards, reports revealed that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ request for funds to repair the levees was reduced by 80 percent (Salon) in 2004. President Bush just submitted a $4.87 billion budget request (PDF) to fund the Corps’ activities in the coming fiscal year. But that is a marginal bump up from the previous year’s request despite increasing demand on the Corps to address growing decay in the systems it maintains.

The Bush administration’s counterterrorism approach has stressed that “We will fight the terrorists overseas so we do not have to face them here at home.” Experts, however, say money invested on the home front can greatly diminish the impact of any future attacks and possibly even deter would-be terrorists.

Read the rest of this article on the cfr.org website.

Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on GlobalSecurity.org with specific permission from the cfr.org. Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to cfr.org.

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