Start reading President Bush's new budget proposal, and you cannot escape the conclusion that our government is convinced we face a serious threat that terrorists might carry deadly weapons or materials across our border with the intention of committing mass murder.
To prevent this, the president quite rightly proposes spending money to cover a broad array of contingencies. For example, he is asking Congress for:
-- $125 million "in new funding for improved radiological and nuclear screening equipment at our borders."
-- $343 million to spend "in Russia and other regions to secure vulnerable nuclear weapons and weapons-usable materials, and to install detection equipment at overseas border crossings and ports to prevent and detect the illicit transfer of nuclear material."
-- $596 million "to protect the safety of the nation's food system from contamination by terrorists."
-- $223 million "to boost efforts in the areas of agent detection, early warning, decontamination and medical countermeasures for chemical and biological threats."
-- $110 million "to continue research on the viability of countermeasures for commercial aircraft against the threat of shoulder-fired missiles known as Man-Portable Air Defense Systems."
-- $44 million "to support the initial deployment in five cities of an early warning system, called Water Sentinel, to detect terrorist attacks on drinking water systems and a laboratory to support water surveillance and emergency response."
And, oh yes, there is "$37 million for 210 additional Border Patrol agents."
Something doesn't compute here: If the Bush budget is approved as requested, we will spend far more money next year on new machines aimed at detecting radiation at our border than we will spend on additional Border Patrol agents to intercept the terrorists who might sneak across the border with the purpose of carrying out a radiological attack.
We will spend more money researching theories for defending passenger jets against portable anti-aircraft missiles than we will on new Border Patrolmen who can stop the terrorists who might use those missiles from ever getting near a U.S. airport. We will even spend more money making sure we can quickly detect poison in the local water supplies of five selected cities than we will on additional Border Patrol agents to help make sure the terrorists cannot get near any of our cities.
President Bush seems to have had a recent change of heart on the need for significantly increasing the size of the Border Patrol.