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Insects, Kangaroos Make Terror List

A Homeland Security database of national monuments, chemical plants and other structures vulnerable to terror attacks is too faulty to accurately help divide federal funds to states and cities, according to the department's internal watchdog.

Much of the study by Homeland Security Inspector General Richard Skinner (.pdf) appears to have been completed before the department announced in May it would cut security grants to New York and Washington by 40 percent this year. But the report, which was released Tuesday, affirmed the fury of those two cities — the two targets of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — which claimed the department did not accurately assess their risks.

Instead, the department's database of vulnerable critical infrastructure and key resources included an insect zoo, a bourbon festival, a bean fest and a kangaroo conservation center. They represent examples of key assets identified in Florida, Illinois, Indiana, and Maryland.

Other examples of what the report called "out-of-place assets" included a groundhog zoo, a flea market, a sporting goods shop and a popcorn stand.

The database "is not an accurate representation of the nations CI/KR (critical infrastructure and key resources)," inspectors concluded. Additionally, the database "is not yet comprehensive enough to support the management and resource allocation decision-making envisioned by the National Infrastructure Protection Plan."

The report noted that Indiana has more assets than any state with 8,591 — that's more than twice as many as California and 50 percent more than New York. It did not detail which ones, but the Homeland Security assessment of New York this year failed to include Times Square, the Empire State Building the Brooklyn Bridge or the Statue of Liberty as a national icon or monument.

The report also noted that New York accounts for just 2 percent of the nation's banking and finance sector assets in the database, placing it between North Dakota and Missouri.

Among other oddities in the database:

  • New Mexico accounts for 73 percent of the information technology sector with a total of 553 assets, dwarfing the next highest state, Virginia, with 68.
  • Washington state lists 65 national monuments and icons, while the nation's capital, Washington, D.C., lists just 37.
  • Indiana lists 65 percent of the nation's assets in the public health sector, including 417 nursing homes.
  • Illinois, home to many of the nation's tallest buildings in Chicago, has fewer tall buildings listed as vulnerable assets than Indiana.

    A Homeland Security spokesman did not return a call or e-mail for comment Tuesday night. But in an April 13 response to a draft of the report, department Undersecretary George Foresman said the database represented a range of national assets that could face different levels of threats at different times.

    The data "have been and are currently being utilized to support allocation decision making processes for the department," wrote Foresman, who oversees the database and the grant funds.

    He added: "The process also continues to mature and improve."

    Part of the problem lies in what inspectors noted was "quirky totals" by states that submitted lists of vulnerable assets.

    The database does not rank the assets it tracks by perceived threats and consequences they face, the report found. An earlier attempt to do so with 1,849 assets "was unreliable."

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