About that stimulus money

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03/20/2009
More than one industry leader has referenced the stimulus package as a potential boon for the security industry. Here's AMAG chief Bob Sawyer talking about "shovel-ready" projects, for example. Our lead newswire story references a webinar where the stimulus was oft-referenced. But SIA has expressed some displeasure with how security was treated in that package and I wonder how much of it will really make its way to the electronic security industry we hold near and dear. Security has such a wide definition that nearly anything can be justified as security: gas masks, haz-mat suits, helicopters, police cars, sidearms, better communications systems, training - the list is nearly endless at some point. This comes to mind as I read this story about money supposedly directed toward "border security" down in Texas.
While Gov. Rick Perry's Office of Emergency Management had "generally" ensured that more than $79 million spent between September 2005 and November 2008 was effectively used to combat border crime, the State Auditor's Office found a handful of examples of squad cars, helicopters and other resources that never made it to Texas' southern frontier.
Check out some of the details:
While the ACLU report primarily focused on the activities of border police and sheriff's departments, the auditor's review analyzed spending within the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Governor's Division of Emergency Management, which together received approximately $142.3 million in state and federal funds between the 2006 and 2009 fiscal years. To date, the agencies have spent just over half of that money, primarily on salaries, equipment and third-party contracts, the auditor's office found. Those purchases included: >> A total of 105 new DPS squad cars that were spread across the state rather than along the border. The department sent 106 used cars to border counties. >> A $7.4 million helicopter that has since been stationed in Austin. DPS redeployed an old helicopter to Laredo. >> Five new commissioned officers in the DPS Aircraft Division who were assigned to duty stations outside of the state's six border operational sectors. The department also failed to establish a planned $1 million Rio Grande Valley Border Security and Technology Training Center slated for Hidalgo County, citing insufficient funds, the audit states. "The (audit) recommendation indicates that resources should be placed in the most critical areas of the border," DPS management said in its response to the report. "We note that the criticality of various areas of the border varies because of a constantly changing threat."
Note how that training center is the only thing on the list that looks like it would have benefited electronic security, and there was no money for that, in the end. When politicians and bureaucrats think about protecting the critical infrastructure that's prioritized in the stimulus package, are they going to be thinking about analytics and cameras and access control integration and PSIM? Or are they going to be thinking about helicopters and police officers and squad cars? Who's out there educating local officials about the ways that security technology can eliminate the need for some of those officers and helicopters and squad cars? That education and lobbying is vital to the ongoing health of the industry.