Beebe criticizes Homeland Security spending | Arkansas Blog

Beebe criticizes Homeland Security spending

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Today's visit to the Pine Bluff Arsenal by a federal Homeland Security official prompts Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Beebe to criticize the department's spending priorities.

Of course, Beebe's Republican opponent, Asa Hutchinson, was an undersecretary at the Homeland Security department before returning to Arkansas to run for governor.

Knowing that, Beebe's remarks are a not-so-subtle dig at Hutchinson.

"I understand what it is to operate on a tight budget and to make tough choices about priorities," Beebe said.  "The priorities at the Department of Homeland Security are the problem.  On two years worth of bad contracts DHS officials spent 2,500 times what it would take to save the Pine Bluff center.  Saving the center at the Pine Bluff arsenal and countless lives through the work it does would only take a tiny fraction of what has been wasted on insider deals and kick-back contracts."

Full press release after the jump.

BEEBE:  PRIORITY SHOULD BE SAVING PINE BLUFF PREPAREDNESS CENTER, NOT WASTEFUL CONTRACTS

Gubernatorial nominee Mike Beebe said he supported saving the Pine Bluff Arsenal's Clara Barton Center for Domestic Preparedness instead of allowing the Department of Homeland Security to continue its wasteful mismanagement of contracts.  Beebe's comments were made at the same time DHS Assistant Secretary for Grants and Training Tracy Henke was visiting the center today.

"I understand what it is to operate on a tight budget and to make tough choices about priorities," Beebe said.  "The priorities at the Department of Homeland Security are the problem.  On two years worth of bad contracts DHS officials spent 2,500 times what it would take to save the Pine Bluff center.  Saving the center at the Pine Bluff arsenal and countless lives through the work it does would only take a tiny fraction of what has been wasted on insider deals and kick-back contracts."

Federal funding for the arsenal was reduced from $13 million to $5 million this year, forcing layoffs in January of 49 people.  According to Ed Caldwell, program manager, if the budget is increased, the arsenal can re-hire program trainers.  Only 41 of 240 assignments can be accomplished during 2006 as a result of the layoff. Sen. Mark Pryor last month recommended diverting $13.5 million from Department of Homeland Security administrative accounts in order to restore training funds [Arkansas News Bureau, 7/13/06].

According to a Congressional Report last week, the Department of Homeland Security spent $34 billion on contracts wrought with poor management and significant waste or abuse [Associated Press, 7/27/06].

The Pine Bluff Arsenal's Clara Barton Center for Domestic Preparedness trains people from all over the country and the region for how to deal with terrorist attacks involving weapons of mass destruction and casualty strategy.  The center dispatches trainers nationwide to help police, fire departments and hazardous materials teams operate and maintain their radiological, chemical and biological detection and response equipment. Trainers can also advise first responders on what equipment to purchase, according to the project's Web site.

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