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Policy without implementation is nothing

Reader comment on item: Has America Learned from 9/11?

Submitted by Michael Kraft (United States), Nov 2, 2004 at 16:57

Daniel:

Academics and politicians can pontificate all they want about this policy or that policy but without the attention to detail and the resources to implment them, it is just empty rhetoric.

The Bush Administration has failed to follow up its words with actual resources. Photo ops seem to be more important than making sure we actually pursue vigorous programs to fight terrorists overseas. And Congress is not much better.

The following op-ed piece still stands, except that since it appeared, former colleagues in government have told me of additional programs that were shortchanged or botched.

--Michael Kraft
(Retired senior adivisor, State Department office of the Cooridinator for Counterterrorism.)

-0-
Copyright 2004 Journal Sentinel Inc. =20
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (Wisconsin)

August 6, 2004 Friday FINAL EDITION

SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 25A

LENGTH: 813 words

HEADLINE: Fight against terrorism needs hard cash ;
Fight against terrorism needs hard cash, not just tough talk

BYLINE: MICHAEL KRAFT

BODY:
Fighting terrorism has become a campaign issue, but the 9-11 commission =
report and a little-noticed congressional report reveal that, despite =
all the tough talk, both the White House and Congress have been quietly =
cutting requests for full funding of important programs to counter =
international terrorism.

In budget meetings behind the scenes, they have failed to match their =
rhetoric with adequate money for key FBI, CIA, Treasury and State =
Department programs to counter terrorists at home and overseas. Budget =
hits have included the State Department's Antiterrorism Training =
Assistance program, which provides foreign law enforcement officials =
with crucial counterterrorism skills they can't get on their own. This =
not only strengthens international working relationships, but it enables =
others to find terrorists while they are still overseas, far from our =
borders.=20

"One of the nation's most fundamental responsibilities is to protect its =
citizens -- from terrorist attacks," Attorney General John Ashcroft =
testified at a congressional hearing on May 9, 2001. Yet the very next =
day, the 9-11 commission reported, his Justice Department issued =
internal guidance for the fiscal 2003 budget request that listed =
fighting gun violence and illegal drugs as priorities -- but not =
terrorism.

Dale Watson, the FBI counterterrorism chief, "told us that he almost =
fell out of his chair when he saw the memo, because it made no mention =
of counterterrorism," the commissioners said. They added that Ashcroft =
turned down an appeal by Thomas Pickard, acting director of the FBI in =
summer 2001, for more counterterrorism funds in fiscal 2003 than the =
previous year.

During the fateful summer of 2001, during the high alert for possible =
terrorist attacks, even a proposed CIA covert actions program against =
al-Qaida was hampered by a budget shortage. Funding for the program was =
not resolved before Sept. 11, the commission said, nor was a dispute =
between the CIA and the Pentagon over paying for the proposed use of =
unmanned "Predator" reconnaissance aircraft to spot Osama bin Laden for =
timely cruise missile attacks.

The disconnect between counterterrorism rhetoric and weak funding =
continued even after Sept. 11.

In his July 12 speech at Oak Ridge, Tenn., President Bush said of the =
fight against terrorists: "We will confront them overseas so that we do =
not have to confront them at home." In a radio broadcast last Sept. 7, =
Bush said: "We will do what is necessary, we will spend what is =
necessary, to achieve this essential victory in the war on terror, to =
promote freedom and to make our own nation more secure."

This is not happening, as shown by cuts in the State Department's budget =
requests for the Antiterrorism Training Assistance program. Its =
importance was underscored when Jordan, a major ATA participant, =
disrupted major attacks planned against American tourists during the =
December 1999 millennium threat. Successful terrorist attacks in other =
countries have shown the need to expand the program.

Nevertheless, despite terrorist attacks by al-Qaida affiliates in a wide =
range of countries, the Bush White House Office of Management and Budget =
cut the State Department's requests for the ATA program and related =
smaller programs an average of 20% for the three regular budgets after =
9-11.

This year, the office cut the State Department's ATA request about 15% =
for fiscal 2005 and cut the department request for the Terrorist =
Interdiction Program that helps other countries identify terrorist =
suspects trying to cross international borders, and other small but =
important programs. Then, the Republican-controlled House of =
Representatives last month passed a foreign aid appropriations bill that =
cut the ATA program funding by another 13.5%, to $111 million. The =
figures were buried in a little-noticed Appropriations Committee report.

Elsewhere in budget actions, OMB and Treasury cut the Internal Revenue =
Service's request for additional financial investigators to unravel =
complex terrorist money trails. Treasury's new Office of Terrorism and =
Financial Intelligence has been given an elevated status in the =
bureaucracy and an ambitious mission to develop and target financial =
intelligence; coordinate law enforcement, sanctions and regulatory =
enforcement; and maintain an international coalition against terrorist =
financing. But it operates on a shoestring with about 25 people and =
extremely limited travel funds.

We are not safe, the 9-11 commission warned. The time is overdue for =
both the Bush administration and Congress to put the money where their =
mouths are and fully fund practical programs to counter terrorism.

------------

Michael Kraft retired recently as a senior adviser in the State =
Department Counterterrorism Office. He previously served as a =
congressional foreign policy specialist and as a foreign correspondent.
Submitting....

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