Richard Kuehl | Citizens Against Government Waste

Richard Kuehl

An Original CAGW Waste Warrior Seeks to Enlist in the War on Terrorism

9/21/2006

Richard J. “Dick” Kuehl is one of the original members of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW).  He was one of the 2,000 corporate volunteers who served on President Ronald Reagan’s Private Sector Survey on Cost Control, better known as the Grace Commission for its chairman and CAGW co-founder, the late J. Peter Grace.  From 1982-1984, the Grace Commission scoured government agencies and programs for waste, fraud, and abuse, and upon presenting President Reagan with 2,478 specific recommendations to save $424.4 billion over three years, Peter Grace teamed up with the late Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Jack Anderson to found CAGW.

As Manager of Capital Purchasing for the Michigan Division of the Dow Chemical Company, Dick served on the Grace Commission’s Air Force Task Force, examining procurement issues.  After completing his analysis of Air Force procurement - Task Force members identified $12 billion worth of cost-cutting recommendations in Air Force operations - Dick went on to assist a team of volunteers from Motorola in examining the federal government’s no-bid consulting contracts.

Continuing his own personal war on waste, the year following the Grace Commission’s completion, Dick became a “loaned executive” from Dow Chemical Company to the National Institute of Building Sciences in Washington, D.C.  He joined a team tasked with studying money wasted by the building industry in gaining approval of construction products.  The study group concluded that establishing a single overarching authority to give blanket approval of products, instead of the myriad of inspectors in multiple building code jurisdictions nationwide, would cut costs and enhance efficiency.

Born in Chicago in 1930, Dick received a Bachelor’s of Science in Electrical Engineering in 1950 from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.  Dick’s career led him to Milwaukee, Wisconsin; St. Louis, Missouri; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Sarnia, Ontario; and Midland, Michigan to construct and operate chemical plants.  From 1986-1987, Dick appeared in Who’s Who in the Midwest, and in 1989, after 33 years with Dow Chemical and a stint in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Dick retired with his wife Ina to Pinehurst, North Carolina.  Dick and Ina will celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary this year.  They have three children and six grandchildren.

Shortly after moving to Pinehurst, Eugene S. Bierer, a retired Army colonel, asked Dick to serve on the Pinehurst Community Watch.  Built on the idea of “neighbor knowing neighbor,” the local community watch has helped Pinehurst record one of the lowest crime rates in the country.  The budget for 300 volunteers in a community of 9,000 is less than $1,000 a year. 

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Dick became convinced that the community watch concept could be applied to securing the American homeland from the threat of terrorism.  While law enforcement is ill-equipped to investigate a crime, including one of terrorism, before it happens, neighbors organized to police their communities can help identify potential terrorists just as they help report potential criminal activity.  Thus was born “The Pinehurst Initiative” (TPI).  

According to Dick, TPI is a low-cost, efficient plan to involve everyday citizens in fighting terrorism within the borders of the United States.  The goal is to develop a network of community watch groups across the country that would draw leadership from retired military veterans and other qualified volunteers.  Each group would work directly with local law enforcement to report unusual or suspicious activity.  In communities with high-risk targets, such as military bases, nuclear power plants, and chemical plants, TPI aims to use neighborhood watch volunteers to create a “Perimeter Defense” around such targets that would coordinate with and complement military, federal, and private-sector security forces guarding those installations.

Dick, Col. Bierer, and a team of volunteers that includes Ernest Hooker, a retired chief of police and FBI academy graduate, and Manila G. (Bud) Shaver, a retired Army major general, have made the rounds in Washington, D.C. to promote their plan.  They have met with members of Congress and officials at the White House and the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice, among other agencies.  With an estimated budget of just $1.5 million, TPI has been judged “too small” to attract most policymakers’ interest, says Dick.

In addition, TPI faces competition for funding from federally sanctioned initiatives, such as the National Sheriffs’ Association’s (NSA) Neighborhood Watch Program.  Dick complains that NSA has received $7 million in federal grants over four years but done little more than create a website and failed in its goal of developing a viable registry of neighborhood watch groups.  Yet another post-9/11 federal volunteerism initiative, Citizen Corps, has spent untold millions of taxpayer dollars on glossy brochures, other splashy marketing materials, and training programs of questionable merit.

In a sign that the TPI leadership’s persistence has at least made a dent in the Washington policy establishment, the White House’s February, 2006 report, The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina:  Lessons Learned, recommends that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) establish a “National Network of Community Watches” (NNCW).  Dick bemoans, however, that this latest proposal, which essentially adopts the TPI concept under the moniker NNCW, appears to be another bureaucratic, top-down strategy led by DHS, rather than the bottom-up approach to community policing envisioned by TPI’s founders.

Dick once before experienced the specter of terrorism while living as an expatriate in Canada in the early 1970’s.  He recalls his family’s living with drawn drapes and checking the car for bombs.  He cautions Washington’s politicians and bureaucrats, “Waiting to form and organize a new bureaucracy is not in the best interest of our nation.  A team of volunteers is ready and experienced to do what is necessary to get American citizens involved in defending their neighborhoods and country.  Let’s tap America’s greatest resource - its people - before it’s too late.”

 

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