If Congress is looking to save money, here's a place to start
by David Atkins
So, Congress is looking for bipartisan ways to reduce spending? They could start here:
Year after year, health officials meeting at invitation-only government conferences leveled with one another about Biowatch, the nation's system for detecting deadly pathogens that might be unleashed into the air by terrorists.
The entire field of "Homeland Security" is riddled with wasteful boondoggles like this. Remember that raising the Medicare eligibility age, the trial balloon floated by the White House, was only going to save $5 billion in the short term (with bigger costs than savings down the road.)
They shared stories of repeated false alarms — mistaken warnings of germ attacks from Los Angeles to New York City. Some questioned whether BioWatch worked at all.
They did not publicize their misgivings. Indeed, the sponsor of the conferences, the U.S. Homeland Security Department, insists that BioWatch's operations, in more than 30 cities, be kept mostly secret.
Now, congressional investigators want Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to open the books on the 9-year-old program and explain why $3.1 billion in additional spending is warranted.
The move by the House Energy and Commerce Committee — spurred by reports in the Los Angeles Times about BioWatch's deficiencies — puts the program at a crossroads.
You'd think that programs like this would see the ax before healthcare for the elderly. But Washington obviously has other priorities you and I couldn't possibly understand.