Last week there was a great story in my state, Pennsylvania, about a PA government contract with a consulting firm hired to provide reports detailing potential threats to critical infrastructure due to terrorist activities.

The reports, written by the Institute of Terrorism Research, ended up giving detailed accounts of public meetings and legal protests held by Tea-Partiers, Quakers, and animal rights activists. It also gave accounts of events happening outside of Pennsylvania, in places as far away as Ireland and Israel, but did note Pennsylvania schools with study abroad programs in these countries. These reports came with a price tag of $103K per year to the taxpayers of Pennsylvania.

I am glad to see that to the Institute of Terrorism Research (scary website here: included both left and right wing groups in their reports. However bipartisan they were, the sad fact is they probably did more harm than good, in that these reports were largely ignored by law enforcement officials. Keeping their reports to actual threats (quality over quantity) would have been more effective, and kept them under the scrutiny radar.

Regardless, as with most government scandals, this only came to light when an outside group noticed something was wrong. Once Governor Rendell was informed he acted quickly and informed the group that their contract would not be renewed. He did not fire anyone on his staff.

It’s troubling to see our government display this level of ineptitude again and again, particularly at a time when most state and local governments are considering raising taxes or cutting social services or police/fire protection. Here is an idea, if you are spending too much, why not try performing a spend analysis? You know, looking at what suppliers you spend money with, and then looking to reduce those costs? In this case, the spend analysis could have pre-emptively found these wasteful and potentially civil-rights-violating costs and added $103K to the bottom line - in politics that’s a win-win. I wonder how much Pennsylvania, or other failing states like California or Illinois, could save if they tried to look at their spend in a strategic way just once. After all, looking under the covers only works if your eyes are open.
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Joe Payne

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