A new audit by the Government Accountability Office has faulted the way the federal government distributed its antiterrorism grants in 2006 — methods that made San Diego ineligible for the aid that year.

Released by the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, the report concludes that officials at the Department of Homeland Security had only a “limited understanding” of how its methods for deciding which areas of the country faced the greatest risk of attack affected which cities received funding:

Although DHS has made progress in developing a method of assessing relative risk among urban areas, DHS officials have said that they cannot yet assess how effective the actual investments from grant funds are in enhancing preparedness and mitigating risk because they do not yet have the metrics necessary to do so. …

The challenges that remain are substantial and will take time, leadership, and attention to resolve.

Earlier this year, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the department would use a different method for assessing risk for fiscal year 2007, one that would allow San Diego to qualify for funds.

Under the new methodology, the federal government will no longer try to quantify how likely a particular area of the country is to fall victim to a terrorist attack — saying freedom of movement largely made the probability equal through out — and instead look at the potential consequences of an attack.

In its story about the changes, The Sacramento Bee quotes Chertoff admitting that his department had been wrong:

“Speaking for myself, I don’t believe I am infallible, or that I have nothing to learn from anybody,” he said.

VLADIMIR KOGAN

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