In response to 9/11, the US Government created the Department of Homeland Security, and has given out money to states and local governments to improve security. Like any government program, there have been times of abuse of funds. Just this situation was averted in the State of Alaska, where Governor Murkowski asked the Feds for $2Million to purchase a jet. He said it was to respond to emergencies, transport prisoners, and, oh yeah, cart his Republican ass around. Only problem is, the majority of landing strips in the state are not paved, which a jet cannot use; the existing TWO turboprops that the state owns can.
Let’s put our tax dollars to REAL use to protect our country, not pamper elected officials!
Article archived here.Feds say no to jet purchase
HOMELAND SECURITY: Plane doesn’t fit the qualifications.
By RACHEL D’ORO
The Associated Press
(Published: September 2, 2004)
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The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has rejected a request by Alaska officials to purchase a jet with federal homeland security funds, saying the state failed to meet the required parameters.
“In this case, no means no,” Public Safety Commissioner Bill Tandeske said Wednesday evening. “It’s a dead issue now. We may not agree with the premise for the denial, but we accept it.”
Tandeske’s office wanted to use $2 million — the state’s portion of homeland security funds — to buy a used jet to respond to emergencies, as well as transport Gov. Frank Murkowski, other government personnel and prisoners.
The plane would have replaced one of two aging propeller-driven planes.
Three reasons were cited for the denial in an Aug. 19 letter signed by C. Suzanne Mender, director of the federal agency’s Office for Domestic Preparedness.
The jet wouldn’t be able to land on most of the rural airstrips around the state, while the older turboprop can, the letter said.
“While the proposed aircraft will reduce response time throughout Alaska, based on the response you submitted, we do not believe that the platform chosen is an efficient and effective aircraft for Homeland Security purposes,” Mender wrote.
In addition, the jet would not be equipped with terrorism prevention equipment, such as specialized navigational systems. And such funds cannot be used to buy aircraft to transport the governor and others as proposed.
Tandeske said the denial was made — at least in part — because of a lack of understanding of Alaska.
The plane to be replaced also can’t access most of the short rural airstrips, according to Tandeske. State officials solved that problem by landing the plane at larger hub communities and continuing to villages in smaller planes. That same strategy would have worked for the jet, Tandeske said.
“The difference between our needs in Alaska and aviation needs in other states are not the same — we’re like five states in one,” he said. “No other state relies on aviation like we do.”
Murkowski had said that using the funds would enhance emergency response. And the governor’s aides said it would save the state maintenance costs to replace one of the old planes.
Murkowski spokeswoman Becky Hultberg referred questions to Tandeske.
“This is something Public Safety requested,” she said. “They’re obviously disappointed. They thought this is something that would have helped them add to their ability to respond.”
News of the denial was announced a week after Rep. Les Gara and Sen. Hollis French, both D-Anchorage, sent the Republican governor a letter, saying a public outcry over the planned purchase was justified.
The lawmakers questioned whether the jet should come before other pressing Homeland Security needs and whether it was simply a faster and more expensive way to move Murkowski and his staff around the state.
Gara and French could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday evening.
Tandeske said it was his idea, not Murkowski’s, to use the funds to help replace part of his department’s aging fleet.
“We’ll take every opportunity we get to update our aircraft,” he said.