S tates are always hungry for federal grant money, but it's not good policy to distribute homeland security funding equally across America.

The bulk of the money should go to the areas where risks are greatest. That's why we support the risk-based approach advocated by the 9-11 Commission, even though it's likely to cost Alabama millions.

The state already has been granted nearly $100 million to prepare for a possible terrorist attack that's much more likely to come in a populous area like New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. While it is prudent to allocate some Homeland Defense money to states like ours, it'd be better to reallocate all future funding based on risk.

To some extent, Congress already has taken that step. A law that took effect in October says 40 percent of Homeland Security funds is to be shared equally by states. Before that, 60 percent was split among the states based on population.

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., is among those who believe a risk-based approach is best, provided an appropriate oversight mechanism is used.

The need for better oversight is evident even in some of the most populated states. In Los Angeles County, for example, law enforcement officials used Homeland Security money to order two customized security boats costing $200,000 and $750,000, respectively, even though the Coast Guard already patrols the waters.

Better management could have far-reaching benefits. The Tuscaloosa County District Attorney's Office, for one, has complained that funding for prosecution through federal grants has been cut to meet Homeland security needs. Diverting money saved by more selective spending back to law enforcement would make sense.

-- The Tuscaloosa (Ala.) News

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