- The Washington Times - Monday, June 4, 2007

ANNAPOLIS — Homeland security officials across the state say they have become concerned about emergency preparedness in Maryland since Gov. Martin O’Malley has taken office.

Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, has been slow to fill vacancies in the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security, and local homeland security coordinators say the O’Malley administration has not contacted them since taking office.

“What’s a little bit disturbing is we have put together strategic homeland security goals for Charles County, and I don’t know whether they have seen them,” said Donald McGuire, Charles County director of emergency preparedness.

Mr. O’Malley has filled two of the office’s eight slots since taking office but also has become more directly engaged with homeland security, said administration spokesman Rick Abbruzzese.

“It’s not about bureaucracy, it’s about planning and execution,” Mr. Abbruzzese said. “I would argue that we are doing much more with much less.”

Mr. Abbruzzese said the governor’s style follows his work as mayor of Baltimore, relying on a few close advisers to work with such groups as the state police, the state’s transportation department and emergency management agency and the National Guard, which all have staff dedicated to homeland security.

Mr. O’Malley also brought Andrew Lauland, his Baltimore homeland security director, to run the state office.

But former members of the office think the work they put into building relationships with local officials was wasted when Mr. O’Malley’s team arrived.

“It’s disappointing to say the least,” said Kevin Reigrut, former program and policy development manager in the homeland security office under former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican. “I wish I could tell you how [Mr. O’Malley’s] model was supposed to work.”

Mr. Reigrut said he and his colleagues were not consulted during Mr. O’Malley’s transition into office in January and that important work was likely being left undone.

Mr. O’Malley carved a national image as big-city mayor who was strong on homeland security issues, frequently criticizing the Bush administration for not spending enough money to protect U.S. cities.

Mr. O’Malley criticized the administration’s homeland security policies in a 2003 Democratic radio rebuttal, at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston and in a 2005 speech to the National Press Club.

“In Washington today, the traditional strong defense values of the party of Abraham Lincoln are found only in the words carved on the cold walls of his memorial,” he said at the press club speech.

Mr. McGuire said the state needs to support its 23 counties and Baltimore City, and it must communicate.

“I don’t know whether they are doing stuff on their own up there, but at some point everything starts down here or ends down here” in local government, he said.

Other county directors said they weren’t as concerned with the communication break and are giving O’Malley officials time to adjust.

“I think [Mr. Lauland’s] style is different than the previous homeland security adviser, and with that we probably hear less from” him, said Bryan Ebling, Caroline County emergency management director.

“We’ve been given the opportunity several times by the governor’s office. They’ve given us an open-door policy. Personally, we have not had any issues rise to that level.”

State Republican leaders also said they were concerned about Mr. O’Malley’s priorities.

“This office needs to be staffed and brought to full complement immediately,” said Delegate Anthony J. O’Donnell, Southern Maryland Republican, who represents the district including the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant and the Cove Point LNG.

“Maybe more attention is being paid to the rhetoric of homeland security than is being paid to making our state safe.”

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