Ask not for whom the (Radio Shack) bell tolls

President Bush, as he never tires of reminding us, considers protecting the American people to be his top priority. So, how's that working out? The New York Times gives us an idea:

Mismanagement of a $1 billion technology contract by the Transportation Security Administration resulted in the expenditure of the entire budget long before all of the needed computer and telephone equipment was installed, according to an audit released Thursday by the inspector general of the Homeland Security Department.

Feeling safer already, aren't you?

The contract, with the Unisys Corporation, called for the installation of computers, pagers, cellphones, radios, telephones and a high-speed network to serve the agency's 65,000 employees at its headquarters, 21 field offices and 429 airports.

The $1 billion was supposed to be enough to finance the project through 2009, the audit said, but most of the money ran out this year before many projects were complete.

Federal security directors at some airports had to rely on dial-up Internet connections to get e-mail messages and information on schedules, training and attendance for airport screeners, although all of them now have high-speed connections.

Other promised systems still not fully delivered include voice mail, a staff management system, a secure wireless network and a network of training computers, the report said, and equipment that was installed often was not robust enough to handle the constant use.

“We were given a hodgepodge of $20 RadioShack rack phones with which to conduct business,” one federal security director was quoted as saying in the report, noting that a caller could not be put on hold or transferred. “Some are so old they actually have a mechanical bell that rings when someone is calling.”

The Bush administration, providing the country with the best in security that can be found in the discount bin at Radio Shack.

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