for overtime, according to Larry Naake, executive director of NACo.

"Our whole purpose of doing the survey was to find out if we could continue to support the money flowing through the states," he said, adding that so far, NACo will continue endorsing that process. Counties, however, would like the money in advance rather than being reimbursed.

It also doesn't help that some states have been creative in disbursing the money.

"In [one state], rather than giving the counties the money for equipment, the state sent down surplus equipment they had," Naake said.

In a section of the NACo survey reserved for comments, one county official suggested city and county officials keep a keen eye on what the state does with the money and "raise a little hell" if need be.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors distributed a press release in November 2003 expressing concern about the money flowing through the states, "especially since many cities have not yet seen fiscal '03 money." The release said money should be sent directly to cities.

But some cities that received money used it for wish-list-type items, according to sources.

In distributing funds based on population, the DHS allows state emergency services organizations to create operational areas at county and political subdivision levels. Two sources familiar with the local-level grant distribution process said "gentlemen's agreements" between local officials dictated how the money was spent.

One California city was fairly successful in its haul of homeland security funds, even though an attack is far less likely there than in cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles and Sacramento.

"What basically happened was the police chief and fire chief got together and said, 'OK, this year we want fire trucks. Next year we know you want that little robot that works with the SWAT team,'" said one source, who wished to remain anonymous. "What happened in those gentlemen's agreements is that the more powerful chiefs and battalion chiefs were the ones getting the funds, not the ones who really needed it."

That happened in about 50 percent of states, the source said.

That sort of behavior is not conducive to improving already strained relationships between jurisdictions.

"Let's be realistic," the source said. "Cities don't always like one another. Cities and counties don't always like one another. When you use California as an example, and you use the example of operational areas for the division of homeland security funds, you only exacerbate that poor relationship."

The source said such methodology could increase incidents of struggles between powerful cities and counties, and less powerful cities and counties.

The Need for Interoperability

Most necessary at state and local levels, sources said, are emergency operation centers (EOCs), interoperable communications capabilities and money for personnel.

This is why Rinerson and others, such as the National Governors Association, say money should be funneled through states. Rinerson said the federal government should develop standards on how money is spent.

"The issue is really the standardization issue, and the feds really haven't done that yet," he said, adding that there must be a consensus and a standards-based way of procurement -- a plan that includes the local governments' wishes. "If the feds don't do it, then it falls down to the states to enact the standards-based methodology. The problem with that is we'll have 54 different standards."

Developing interoperability and push-to-talk capabilities would be using the money wisely, Rinerson said. It's not just police and fire that need that kind of capability, eCivic's Perkosky said, adding that public works-type personnel should be enlisted as eyes and ears of the community as well.

"Your tree trimmers, your grass collectors, your public works employee -- who's going

Jim McKay, Justice and Public Safety Editor  |  Justice and Public Safety Editor