- The Washington Times - Friday, July 21, 2006

Homeland Security officials are refuting an inspector general’s report that criticizes the agency for cluttering its database of national assets with listings such as a petting zoo, a popcorn factory and hot dog stands.

“The database in question is not a list of assets considered to be critical, despite the assertions of the inspector general …,” William Knocke, Homeland Security spokesman, said in a statement issued yesterday.

“The National Asset Database simply lists any and all national assets, and is only one mechanism that DHS uses to identify infrastructure nationwide,” the statement said.

The agency’s top investigator said the National Asset Database (NADB) was created to catalog critical infrastructure and assets susceptible to a terrorist attack or natural disaster and that the agency failed to give states proper guidance over submissions.

The database includes more than 4,000 malls, 200 racetracks, 800 amusement and water parks, 1,300 casinos, and 120 gas stations.

The department also defended the list in a USA Today piece written by Robert Stephan, the department’s assistant secretary for infrastructure protection.

“We include all the data as a starting point, then filter key data on the basis of vulnerability, threats and consequences,” Mr. Stephan wrote.

Homeland Security officials say the NADB is meant to serve as an inventory of assets and that it is not ranked by risk of terrorist attacks.

“Ambiguity about what constitutes a (critical infrastructure or key resource) could lead to inefficient use of limited Homeland Security resources,” said the July 11 report by Inspector General Richard L. Skinner.

In 2003, states submitted “assets” such as Old MacDonald’s Petting Zoo, car dealerships, auto shops, bingo parlors, and a groundhog zoo. In 2004, states submitted ice cream parlors, fishing shops, nightclubs, breweries, a Rolls-Royce plant, donut shops, Wal-Mart, and a casket company.

The inspector general says the continued presence of these listed assets “complicates efforts to develop a useful, first-generation database,” the report said.

Mr. Stephan said the “inspector general attempted to turn a deliberative, analytic process into a national mockery.”

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