Col. Randall Larsen, retired US Air Force, is CBS News's homeland security expert, and also the CEO of Homeland Security Associates. Tuesday, Col. Larsen joined News 3's Steve Fullhart to discuss the state of national defense.
Steve Fullhart: Let's jump right into it with a statement you made to the House Budget Committee. You told them in February, "...if we, as a nation, do not develop a comprehensive strategy and supporting fiscal priorities for defending our homeland, then our own incompetence will become a greater threat to our security than al Qaeda." That's a pretty bold statement.
Randall Larsen: I think a lot of folks in Washington, DC, are starting to understand that just spending and wasting money is not going to make us secure. In fact, it's going to make us less secure. If we waste money on certain programs, then we don't have that same amount of money to spend on something that really would work to make our families more secure.
SF: We did some reports back in November and found out that hundreds of thousands of dollars were coming to our area for first responders and updating their equipment. Is that frugal spending or necessary spending?
RL: Well, there's some spending that we're going to be doing on first responders. But we can't buy a chemical detector for every government building in the state of Texas or in Brazos County or whatever. We have to focus on priorities. Where can al Qaeda or other terrorist organizations hurt us the most? I believe that is with using nuclear weapons and biological weapons.
SF: You spoke at Texas A&M on Tuesday concerning the bioterrorism threat, as you mentioned. You conducted a project called Atlantic Storm. Tell us about that.
RL: In Atlantic Storm, we brought in international leaders. Madeline Albright played the president of the United States. We had the former Polish prime minister, the former Norwegian prime minister. We had the former director of the World Health Organization. Twelve people spent a day around the table responding to a scenario. We had phony news clips coming in, intelligence reports updates about a biological attack and how they would respond to it. They all walked away from it saying, "We are not prepared for something that will likely happen within the next five to ten years."
SF: Are you of the impression that bioterrorism is the biggest threat to the United States?
RL: Nuclear weapons and bioweapons are the greatest threat we could face in terms of a large attack on America that could change our political system, do enormous economic damage, and kill lots of people. That's what we have to focus on. A car bomb here or a car bomb there would be a local tragedy, but it won't change America. We need to focus our spending on those things that could truly change America.
For the second part of Steve Fullhart's interview with Col. Larsen, click on the link below.