San Diego Union-Tribune

December 14, 2001

U.S. could get multi-tiered terrorism alert system, Davis says
 Governor, homeland security chief meet

By TOBY ECKERT
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE 

WASHINGTON -- Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge is
considering a more sophisticated alert system to warn the
nation of potential terrorist threats, possibly ranking them in order of potential seriousness, Gov. Gray Davis said after
meeting with Ridge yesterday.

State and local officials have been critical of the general
warnings issued by the federal government in the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. Davis himself was criticized by some for disclosing a threat to four major California bridges, including the San Diego-Coronado Bridge and the Vincent Thomas Bridge in Los Angeles, that federal officials later said wasn't credible.

Davis said last month that California would set up a tiered
terrorism alert system, similar to the one used during the recent power crisis to warn of electricity shortages and possible blackouts.

Ridge "asked me to withhold implementing our model because he would like to implement a national model that all the states and localities could use," Davis said after the White House meeting. "It's even better if we have a national model because then everyone is on the same page."

Ridge is considering several ideas, including the four-stage alert system proposed for California, Davis said. The national plan may be ready by Jan. 15, he added.

Ridge also indicated he would recommend that the federal
government help the states cover some of their homeland
security costs in the fiscal-year 2003 budget, Davis said. That fiscal year starts Oct. 1, 2002.

California's anti-terrorism spending totals $143 million, Davis said. That includes everything from overtime for police officers to getting the public health system ready for a bioterrorism attack.

"We believe all those costs are directly attributable to the
terrible acts of Sept. 11, but we believe they should be paid by the federal government, not the state government," said Davis, who is facing a state budget shortfall of $10 billion to $12 billion.

A larger group of governors met with Ridge on Wednesday to press their case for at least $3 billion in federal funding for all 50 states.

Davis said he also made another pitch for his proposals to allow California Highway Patrol officers to serve as air marshals on in-state flights and to have National Guard troops deployed at airports inspect checked luggage.