Courtesy Reuters

More than a year after "America the Vulnerable" appeared in the pages of Foreign Affairs, the United States remains dangerously unprepared to prevent and respond to a catastrophic terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Little has been done to make first-responders ready to respond. With the budgets of 43 states and most major cities hemorrhaging in red ink, the funding backlog for training, protective gear, detection equipment, and bolstering emergency communications remains virtually untouched. The promise of federal assistance has fallen victim to the politics of the budget authorization process. While there is growing awareness of the vulnerability of the maritime transportation networks that move over 90 percent of America’s trade with the world, the Pentagon is spending 50 times more protecting its own bases than Washington is spending on the security of the nation’s commercial seaports. The post-September 11 anthrax attacks highlighted the moribund state of America’s public health systems, yet most cities and states still lack the specialized equipment to detect a disease outbreak nor do they have the means to manage a major epidemic. U.S. energy distribution systems and food and water supplies remain largely unprotected. Finally, many of the best-trained and experienced personnel that governors and

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  • Stephen E. Flynn is Senior Fellow in the National Security Studies Program at the Council on Foreign Relations and a Commander in the U.S. Coast Guard. This article is adapted from his chapter in "How Did This Happen? Terrorism and the New War," published by PublicAffairs and Foreign Affairs with the support of the Council on Foreign Relations.
  • More By Stephen E. Flynn