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Thick or Thin

September 1, 2007 Homeland Security officials wrestle with the best way to spread grant money among cities and states. Colchester is a small town just outside Burlington, Vt. It has slightly more than 17,000 people. The town's government has an annual operating budget of about $9 million. And courtesy of a federal homeland...

FEMA looks to private sector for disaster provisions

August 24, 2007 The state of Texas has decided that it cannot count on the Federal Emergency Management Agency for help in a disaster. So the state's emergency management division has made arrangements with big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart and Home Depot to provide water, ice and other critical supplies to its citizens...

Shuffling Supplies

August 15, 2007 FEMA turns to the private sector to make sure disaster areas get ample provisions-and fast. The state of Texas has decided that it cannot count on the Federal Emergency Management Agency for help in a disaster. So the state's emergency management division has made arrangements with big-box retailers such as...

Big Contracts, Big Problems

August 15, 2007 Lead systems integrators are in the hot seat as major programs flounder. What a difference a few years make. Five years ago, with great optimism, the Coast Guard let the largest contract in the agency's history to overhaul its fleet of aircraft, boats and cutters, and tie all those assets...

No-Bid Worries

August 15, 2007 DHS finds itself defending companies that get its contracts. If the Homeland Security Department's procurement focus in fiscal 2005 was rebuilding the Gulf Coast region after the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina, then much of its efforts in fiscal 2006 could be described as addressing post-Katrina contracting problems. One of...

A Closer Look

August 15, 2007 With turnover in Congress, civilian contracting offices face increased oversight. After spending much of 2005 on the defensive in the wake of countless contracting scandals spurred by Hurricane Katrina, civilian acquisition offices had hoped for a more low-key, back-to-basics year. It didn't go quite as planned. Within weeks of assuming...

Spiraling Into Control

August 8, 2007 When firefighters rush into a burning building, their chief manages the incident from outside. Chiefs would love to have a tool pinpointing the precise location of their crews inside a building at any moment, in case the fire changes direction or part of the building collapses. But metal and steel...

Spiraling Into Control

August 1, 2007 An intriguing DHS program fills safety gaps fast with low-cost technology. When firefighters rush into a burning building, their chief manages the incident from outside. Chiefs would love to have a tool pinpointing the precise location of their crews inside a building at any moment, in case the fire changes...

Security Theater

August 1, 2007 There's little downside to being alarmist about terror, so we spend too much on measures that evoke feelings of security without actually improving it. At the time, it seemed reasonable. Richard Reid tried to ignite explosives hidden in his shoe while aboard a December 2001 flight from Paris, so Congress...

Big Round Numbers

July 15, 2007 From radiation treatment to smallpox vaccines to port security, do agencies really know how much is enough? Half a million-that's the number of soldiers who would be vaccinated against smallpox, along with 440,000 public health workers, President Bush announced in 2004. But concerns about the safety of the vaccine stalled...