Big Anti-Terror Bucks For Big Sky State

Keteyian, Montana CBS

At a street fair in downtown Bozeman, Mont., there are plenty of barbeque, burgers, corn on the cob, and cowboys. A terrorist attack seems as unlikely a sight as a skyscraper, CBS News Chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian reports.

But firefighter Jason Shrauger plans for such catastrophes.

"We really lean towards the theory of, if you can respond to your day-to-day stuff, you're gonna respond to the big one effectively," Shrauger says, adding that there is potential for a terrorist attack to happen there.

Only a half-dozen states have fewer people than Montana. The "Big Sky" State has just over 900,000 — that's six residents per square mile.

"It's craziness," says Tom Kean, chairman of the 9/11 Commission. "I mean, it makes no sense whatsoever." Kean says Congress should reconfigure the formula that now gives some homeland security dollars to every state.

"An area that has the greatest threat deserves first priority on the money," Kean says. "And so on down the list."

Since 9/11, the state of Montana has received about $70 million in federal homeland security dollars, raising questions as to how wisely that money is being spent. State officials point to the need to protect projects like a hydroelectric dam as well dozens of other potential targets for terrorism, like power grids, missile sites and 545 miles of largely unprotected border with Canada.

"You can't predict where these people are going to strike next," says Dan McGowan, the state's Homeland Security Administrator. "We all have to work at being prepared, regardless of where we live in the United States."

In Montana, that means preparing with doomsday drills, like a recent one that responded to a plane packed with toxic chemicals crashing into the state capital.

"Is al Qaeda going to come and bomb Main Street? Probably not. We sure hope not. But if they choose to do that, we'll be ready," says Bozeman Fire Chief Chuck Winn.

They'll be ready with a $250,000 mobile command post and a fully loaded hazardous materials trailer. The price tag: $400,000.

Winn controls one of six trailers deployed regionally throughout the state. It's equipped, just in case, to fire up a $70,000 portable chemical detector. All of this has been paid for with Department of Homeland Security grants.

Montana is fairly far off the beaten path for a terrorist attack, but Winn says the equipment is necessary.

"I actually think it's a very good expenditure of the DHS money. It's something that we couldn't afford on our own. It's something that helps us keep our community safe from all risk," Winn says.

But not everyone agrees. "This is the money to protect us all, and it's got to go to the areas with the greatest risk. Anything else is unacceptable," says Kean.

For now, Montana has its millions, even if would-be terrorists never take a bite of Bozeman, or anywhere else out there.

  • Melissa McNamara

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