The terrorist attacks of 9/11 unleashed a torrent of money from the federal government to the states aimed at hardening security.
In the year before the attack, Kansas received $844,000 in federal grants for security. The next year, the state received $4.2 million, then $27 million, and then a high of $28.8 million.
State homeland security officials say the money in Kansas has gone into a number of areas that have increased the state’s ability to handle emergencies, whether it be a terrorist attack or what is common in Kansas: natural disasters.
“We have taken the all-hazards approach,” said Kansas Adjutant General Lee Tafanelli.
“The improvements that we make in our response and capabilities are the same utilized in floods or tornadoes or some terroristic action that has occurred,” he said. “You have to do basic things, such as communicate, bring in large amounts of manpower personnel to deal with the situation.”
State Sen. Jay Emler, R-Lindsborg, a legislative leader on homeland security issues, said, “Initially, the funding was antiterrorism, but we have gradually migrated from just planning for terrorism to planning for all hazards, tornadoes, floods, ice storms. All of it now comes under the same planning.”
One of the key improvements Kansas made was what is called “interoperability.”
Before 9/11, Emler said, “We couldn’t talk between fire and police or between fire and highway patrol.”
Now a system is in place across most of the state that allows officials and emergency responders at all levels to communicate with one another.
Other funding has gone to equipment, training, exercises and planning.
At first, the federal money was streaming to counties that started buying equipment. But officials quickly decided that wasn’t an efficient way to operate.
“That system didn’t work as well as we had hoped,” Emler said. “Assets were purchased that might get used relatively infrequently so we’ve gone to a regional approach.”
The state also put together a Safe Schools Program that provides training for school officials on disaster planning.
Emler and Tafanelli said the state is in much better shape security-wise than 10 years ago.
Tafanelli said one of the biggest challenges ahead is that the initial flood of federal funding has been cut back significantly in recent years. Last year, the state received about $10.1 million from the federal government, and that number is expected to continue to decrease as the government wrestles with budget cuts, he said.
To what extent will or can the state make up for the loss of federal funding?
“We are probably going to have to have that debate,” Tafanelli said.