Looks like earmarks and the Department of Homeland Security have teamed up with Congressman Colorado Congressman Dougie Lamborn [R-COD] to provide a few hundred thousand bucks for "Anti Terrorism grants" and "vehicle security" for the shuttle buses taking tourists [a funny way to spell terrorists] up to the casinos of Cripple Creek and other mining towns.
Good to see Homeland Security's budget is in the Green enough, and they have covered all the hard stuff to be able to handle this delicate security situation.
Gamblers' shuttle gets terrorism funds
May 23, 2008 - 4:58PM
BY PAM ZUBECK
Colorado Springs-based Ramblin Express, which shuttles gamblers to mountain-town casinos, including Cripple Creek, has received $382,000 in anti-terrorism grants.
The most recent grant, for $184,415, was announced this month as part of the Department of Homeland Security's $844 million Infrastructure Protection Activities program.
Ramblin Express' grant is among the $11.2 million allocated to the Intercity Bus Security Grant Program, which is intended to assess risks and prevent attacks on that part of the nation's transportation system.
It's not clear what threats Ramblin Express is addressing or what the grant money has gone for because the company's owner, Todd Holland, couldn't be reached for comment.
A Federal Emergency Management Agency official said in written responses to questions the Ramblin Express' money is for vehicle security and GPS systems. FEMA also said spending is monitored.
Homeland security expert James Carafano derided the program as a "ridiculous" expense.
"This is checkbooks gone wild," said Carafano, a senior research fellow at conservative Washington, D.C., think tank The Heritage Foundation. "This is so stupid."
Carafano said if private companies or local governments feel the need to improve security or take steps to guard against terrorism, they should foot the bill, not turn to Uncle Sam.
"People are more than willing to spend other people's nickel," he said.
Such grants don't make the nation safer and divert money from more worthwhile efforts, such as the mission to "get the terrorists," Carafano said.
"It's not saying gamblers might not need protecting, but the question is, what is the most efficient and effective way to make people safer, and it's not riding shotgun in buses," he said.
The 9/11 Commission members, he said, warned homeland security would become a new pork barrel, and they were right.
Ramblin Express was the only Colorado bus company to receive funding and the only one that applied, a federal homeland security official said. The official said applications are reviewed by a National Review Panel of experts from the Department of Transportation, Transportation Safety Administration and FEMA.
The company runs daily shuttles to Cripple Creek, Black Hawk and Central City and provides tours, charter service and airport shuttles in Colorado Springs and Denver, according to its Web site.
Whatever security measures the grants paid for, they weren't enough to prevent an armed robbery aboard a Ramblin Express bus in August 2006.
The intercity bus program, which has cost taxpayers $71 million since 2003, has made grants to firms in Nevada, Arizona, Kentucky, Iowa and other sparsely populated states, as well as large cities.
For Scott Duncan, who oversees a three-state bus operation, the grants mean being able to train drivers and outfit buses with expensive technology.
Duncan is general manager of All Aboard America, operated by Industrial Bus Lines, Inc., based in New Mexico and serving military, intercity riders, students attending sports events, charter groups and commuters in Santa Fe, the Texas cities of El Paso and Midland-Odessa, and Phoenix.
Industrial's $199,274 grant awarded this year will be used to install GPS systems and further train drivers "to be aware of their surroundings, of what's unusual and the people on board," Duncan said.
"When you see in the news around the world that buses end up being connected with things, the object is to be prepared," he said. "I believe that terrorism doesn't fit where we think it may happen, but where we have our guard down."
He also said his buses run near the Mexico border and a nuclear power plant, placing them at risk.
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