|Counties Seek Federal Funds
to Help Them on Front Lines in Response to Terror|
Capital News Service
Friday, Oct. 26, 2001
WASHINGTON - Local governments would be the first to respond to terrorist
attacks and need federal support -- perhaps as much as $3 billion -- to do
the job right, county government officials said Friday.
"We're an army of locals on the front line of threats to our
nation," said Prince George's County Executive Wayne Curry. "I
hope the government is able to get the resources to local conscripts, so our
people will be as protected as any army."
Curry was one of more than 40 county government officials attending a
meeting of the National Association of Counties homeland defense committee
Friday in Washington. They urged Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, who
spoke at the conference, to give the counties $3 billion for homeland
defense and $835 million to improve nation's health infrastructure to
respond to bio-terrorism.
An association survey of its members' terrorism readiness found many
counties unprepared. Most counties that responded to the survey had disaster
plans that include all aspects of disaster mitigation and search and rescue
operations, but fewer had plans for how to respond specifically to a
Counties with more than a million residents had terrorist response plans
before Sept. 11, but one-fifth of those did not specifically address
chemical warfare. The smallest, mostly rural counties were less prepared:
Only 22 percent had terrorist-response plans.
Sixteen Maryland counties participated in the survey, but their answers were
not available Friday.
While the counties called on Ridge for financial help, he made no promises.
He instead urged the counties to work with each other and with their state
governments, and to avoid duplicating efforts.
The counties must "collaborate and integrate resources like you've
never done before," he said.
"We have to be sensitive to maximizing effectiveness. That means
maximizing the use of whatever money we get," Ridge said.
Ridge did promise that his office would assemble a group of local government
leaders from around the country to help develop and implement a
comprehensive homeland defense strategy. He said he understood the counties'
desire to "get money today and to fix it today," but asked them to
be patient as President Bush formulates his budget during the next two
He also said there might be some funds available from last year's
Curry said money from the economic stimulus package that the House narrowly
passed Wednesday should be redirected to pay for aid to counties. "That
money would be better applied to local governments get ready to respond to
terrorism," he said.
Curry also stressed how important it is for counties near Washington, like
Prince George's, to be prepared to respond to terrorism.
"Many people work in Washington, but live with us," he said.
"We have to be ready to respond as Washington's ground zero."
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