• 2015 DHS budget is border patrol “wish list”: critics

    Last week, the House Appropriations Committee approved $39.2 billion 2015 budget for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Critics were quick to point out that many items in the budget were not on the original budget request, but were since added after showing up originally on a wish list of hardware that could improve and extend the surveillance capabilities of DHS.

  • Badly engineered missile defense systems deployed “because there was a rush”

    In 1983 President Ronald Reagan launched the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) to build space- and ground-based missile defense systems. The space-based component was abandoned as impractical, and the focus shifted to Ground-based Midcourse Defense systems (GMD). Despite disappointing results and program test failures, Congress and the George W. Bush administration pressed forward with spending billions on acquiring systems of questionable reliability. “We recognize the problems we have had with all the currently fielded interceptors,” Undersecretary of Defense Frank Kendall old an industry gathering in February 2014. “The root cause was a desire to field these things very quickly and very cheaply; we are seeing a lot of bad engineering, frankly, and it was because there was a rush.”

  • Number of structurally deficient bridges in U.S. declines

    The number of structurally deficient bridges in the United States has declined by 14 percent in the last six years, but despite the improvement, 10 percent of American bridges are in need of maintenance, rehabilitation, or replacement. The average age of bridges in the country is forty-three years old, and most bridges were built to last for fifty-years, so eventually all bridges will become structurally deficient unless they are repaired or replaced.

  • S.D. high on the list of recipients of DHS funds, even as it faces “no specific or domestic terrorist threat”

    Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, DHS has established an office in each state which oversees millions of dollars in federal grant and aid money for security related measures. Groups monitoring the DHS allocation of funds to states note the large amount of money allocated to South Dakota, despite the fact that the state is considered by intelligence agencies and officials to be one of fifteen states that have “no specific or domestic terrorist threat.”

  • Recession-related cost measures blamed for U.S. infrastructure lagging development

    In an alarming fall, the United States is currently ranked 19th in the quality of its infrastructure, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report. Additionally, the American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE) has given the country a D+ on its annual Infrastructure Report Card, arguing that $3.6 trillion is needed by 2020 for maintenance and upgrades.

  • DHS HQ: Doubts grow about trouble-plagued St. Elizabeths complex

    DHS was supposed to move into its new, centralized headquarters on the grounds of the historic St. Elizabeths, in 2015, at a cost estimated to be about $3 billion. Today the project is $1.5 billion over budget, eleven years behind schedule, with thousands of DHS employees working at more than fifty scattered, expensively leased office buildings. Some lawmakers doubt whether the complex will ever be completed. A congressional aide familiar with sentiments on the Hill says: “It’s [the original St. Elizabeths complex plan] just not going to happen. The money doesn’t exist.”

  • Former DHS secretary: DHS has lost its way

    Former DHS secretary Tom Ridge recently said that, “[DHS has] kind of lost [its] way…The focus – the primary focus – has been substantially diminished.” Others echo Ridge’s concern, noting that the department, the budget of which has more than doubled since its inception, from $29 billion in 2003 to $61 billion next year, has been suffering from mission creep.

  • Critics say $265 billion transportation bill insufficient

    Transportation advocates criticize the lack of an increase in funding in the Senate’s $265 billion surface transportation bill recently unveiled. Senate leaders said the bill would replace the current transportation funding measure and maintain current funding levels, adjusted for inflation, for the next six years. The proposed bill includes $44 billion annually for road and transit projects, based on a Congressional Budget Office(CBO) estimate of how much funding will be needed to maintain current federal transit programs. The CBC has projected that Department of Transportation’s Highway Trust Fund will run out of money by August 2014 without congressional action.

  • Research reconfirms that public investment in scientific research promotes growth

    New and independent research has reconfirmed and quantified some of the economic and societal benefits of public investment in scientific research. The report says that for every £1 spent by the U.K. government on R&D, private sector R&D output rises by 20p per year in perpetuity, by raising the level of the U.K. knowledge base.

  • South Carolina withdraws MOX lawsuit against DOE, NNSA

    The state of South Carolina said Friday that it would not go ahead with its lawsuit against the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) in support of the Savannah River Site’s Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility. The dismissal of the lawsuit follows an announcement last Tuesday by the DOE and NNSA that construction will continue on the MOX facility through the end of the fiscal year. The two agencies made it clear, though, that they still plan to mothball the plant.

  • DHS cancels acquisition of BioWatch’s Generation 3 technology

    Owing to concerns about BioWatcheffectiveness and high cost, DHS has canceled plans to install an automated technology meant to speed the 24-hour operations of the program, the nation’s system for detecting a biological attack.ASeptember 2012 GAO report estimated that annual costs to operate the Generation 3 technology would be “about four times more” than the existing BioWatch system.

  • S.C. fights to keep costly plutonium processing project alive

    The United States and Russia have agreed to dispose of thirty-four tons of weapon-grade plutonium each, an amount equal to 17,000 nuclear warheads. The United States budgeted $4 billion for a mixed-oxide fuel project, known as MOX, at the Savannah River Site, S.C., to process the plutonium, but construction costs have now reached $8 billion, and officials estimate the facility will cost about $30 billion over its operating years. DOE has suspended the MOX project and is looking for alternative plutonium processing methods. South Carolina has sued the federal government, arguing that since Congress has authorized the funds for MOX, the administration must spend the money.

  • Helping Kansas counties deal with deficient bridges

    Seventy-eight of the 105 counties in the state of Kansas have bridges on low-volume rural roads in dire need of repair, replacement, or removal. With an estimated cost of $150,000 per bridge — and nearly 1,000 bridges across the state in the structurally deficient or functionally obsolete categories — replacement bridges are an expensive proposition. A new study offers a way to determine which bridges should be repaired, and which should be closed.

  • Red Team’s concepts, approach gain support

    Headed by Thom Mason, director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Red Team aims to modernize the uranium processing procedure on a budget of $4.2 billion to $6.5 billion. Even before Red Teamdelivered its report on alternatives to the expensive Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant by the 15 April 2014 deadline, the group of experts, who come from different disciplines, had already gained support among energy officials and some members of Congress.

  • Kenyan security forces hobbled by lack of funds

    Kenya may be facing a heightened risk from regional terrorism, but security forces in Kenya are hobbled by glaring underfunding due to government corruption and mismanagement. The Anti-Terror Police Unit in Nairobi, the main force set up to combat terrorist acts, has only $2,205 for its operations during the first quarter of the year — coming to just $735 for March. In comparison, an average parliamentary salary is around $45,000 for the same period.