- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 2, 2005

SAN ANTONIO — The top foreign-affairs adviser to the Department of Homeland Security says the United States must do more to spark action among its foreign allies in fighting the global war on terrorism in their own countries.

In an interview while attending a terrorism-law conference here this week, Cresencio S. Arcos, the department’s director of international affairs, said: “We need to be more creative in how we engage our allies in the war on terror.”

The United States has made great progress working with Britain, Canada and Mexico — the latter two making up about 60 percent of joint-U.S. homeland security efforts — said Mr. Arcos.

Department sources, however, say they are “circumspect” about forming joint working groups with governments outside those three nations. “We can’t possibly have them with every country in the world,” one official said, on the condition of anonymity.

On June 1, DHS officials convened a semiannual conference with British officials to discuss information- and technology-sharing practices in the war on terrorism.

A key topic, said department officials, was how better to involve the European Union in multinational air-security efforts, such as creating more extensive passenger information. The next meeting with Britain is scheduled for December.

Meanwhile, Mr. Arcos, a former senior State Department official who once served as ambassador to Honduras, said perhaps the biggest challenge in engaging allies in Europe and other parts of the world is that the war on terrorism “costs a lot.”

Most countries are less willing than the United States to embrace the high price of beefing up security in such places as international airports.

“Increasingly, as we move away from September 11, one of the concerns that we must all be mindful of is that we don’t want to let the guard down,” Mr. Arcos said. “We need to keep funding up.”

Spending by the 22 agencies that form DHS has ballooned in the four years since the hijackings killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.

With spending on contracts by homeland security agencies climbing from around $2.5 billion a year in 2001 to nearly $5.8 billion this year, Mr. Arcos said even Congress “is becoming very pricklish” about funding homeland security efforts.

The bulk of the increased funding, he said, has gone toward private contract firms providing Internet security systems and personnel management services to help ease the transition of nearly two dozen separate agencies into a single, more coherent umbrella department.

“The biggest concern,” Mr. Arcos said, “is that we don’t lose focus, that we don’t just become like a pork barrel.”

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