Facing criticism for her handling of federal stimulus money, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday that she would not start any new border construction projects and review how her department selected which projects would get money.
Napolitano has faced questions since The Associated Press reported last month that Homeland Security officials did not follow their internal priority lists when choosing which border checkpoints would get money for renovations. Under a process that is secretive and susceptible to political influence, officials planned to spend millions at tiny checkpoints, passing over busier, higher-priority projects.
The criticism peaked Wednesday when a senior Senate Democrat, Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, said that, despite Napolitano's assurances, he felt Homeland Security was treating the economic stimulus plan like a "bottomless pit" of taxpayer money. It was unusually pointed criticism from a member of the president's own party about how the administration is handling economic recovery spending.
"There's no common sense at all to a requirement that says you've got to put up a $15 million facility for a small port of entry that's host to about five vehicles an hour," Dorgan, whose state stood to receive $128 million for checkpoint improvements, said in a telephone interview.