Security panel ponders safety on a budget

Wednesday, November 21, 2001

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Struggling with a tight state budget and the need for a coordinated anti-terrorist strategy, Missouri's top state officials met Tuesday to begin talks on how best to protect the state from an attack.

Meeting in the State Emergency Management Agency's underground bunker, state security adviser Tim Daniel said that government, law enforcement and the military must be prepared for the unthinkable.

"The important work has yet to be done," Daniel told reporters before leading the meeting of the 32-member panel. "In the near term, with this generation of terrorists, we have to fight them with what we have. There is no magic fix out there. And we will face more challenges in the future."

With that in mind, Daniel said the panel appointed by Gov. Bob Holden Nov. 9 will review the state's readiness and level of security to determine what action should be taken.

"Let's be judicious and understand where we want to be in the future," Daniel said. "The rush to judgment to throw money at this thing may not be the right thing to do."

The group, which includes the mayors of St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield along with lawmakers and the attorney general, was greeted by Holden before the first of four meetings.

"We are in a fight for our future and I appreciate that you have joined us in winning this battle," Holden said.

Missouri's model

Holden told the panel that federal Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said in a meeting with Missouri officials last week that the state is a model for others to follow.

"We made our case that security preparation and coordination is very much a bottom-up process," Holden said. "As a former governor, Tom Ridge is very aware of how important the input will be from the state and local level in shaping a national security strategy."

While Daniel said money may not be the answer to all of the state's security issues, Senate Budget Committee Chairman John Russell of Lebanon said a tight budget makes the effort more difficult.

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