“However, these more advanced measures will not be in place until much later, and their effectiveness has yet to be tested,” Moore wrote. But Rachel Campbell, a spokeswoman for the Port of Los Angeles, defended port security efforts and said the economic impact of an attack would be mitigated by transferring cargo shipments to other ports around the nation. “Also, we have put in place a myriad of new security enhancements at the port. And we have the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs, FBI and all of the local law enforcement agencies, including the LAPD, CHP, Long Beach police and our own L.A. Port Police. “We’re one of the few ports in the nation to have our own police force exclusively dedicated to us.” Still, conference keynote speaker Rear Admiral William D. Sullivan, vice director for strategic plans and policy for the U.S. Department of Defense, said al-Qaida’s goal is to bankrupt the nation and force it to withdraw its troops from the Middle East. “There is no question if you look at what we’ve spent in the last 41/2 years on homeland security and terrorism that it’s staggering,” Sullivan said. Gary Becker, a senior economist at the Department of Homeland Security, said the Congressional Budget Office has estimated the annual cost of fighting terrorism at tens of billions of dollars. But he said that doesn’t take into account many variables, such as delays at airports and the borders and other factors. “We really don’t know a whole lot about the overall costs and benefits of homeland security,” Becker said. At the conference, speakers recommended that experts further study the costs and benefits of homeland security and refine the new risk-based method of allocating the money to ensure that cities and states with the most likely targets get their fair share of the funding. Intriligator recommended that the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency begin working together and sharing intelligence and he suggested that jurisdictions nationwide should emulate the county’s Terrorism Early Warning Group, which holds regular intelligence briefings. “I think it’s a model for the world,” Intriligator said. “Al-Qaida’s goal is to kill 4 million Americans. The big one is coming, but it’s not an earthquake. It’s a terrorist strike.” [email protected] (213) 974-8985160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinals“I think we’re going to pay a big price for that because in my view I think we’re still extremely vulnerable,” Intriligator said. “I think we are facing a huge threat.” Intriligator was one of more than a dozen speakers at a conference on terrorism Wednesday hosted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security-funded Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events, based out of the University of Southern California. Jim Moore II, a professor of industrial and systems engineering at USC, said research on the impact of a “dirty bomb” or other weapon of mass destruction at the nation’s three largest port complexes found it would cost the economy tens of billions of dollars a month. A large attack on the ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach alone would have a $23 billion-a-month impact on the local economy. In his study, Moore wrote it is well known that ports have been vulnerable since 2001 because of the infrequency of container checks. He noted that officials have replaced handheld radiation detectors with stationary radiation screening devices to screen containers coming through the ports since new rules went into effect in 2004. It’s been nearly five years since terrorists attacked the United States, but local experts predicted Wednesday that there will be another attack that will make Sept. 11, 2001, “look like peanuts.” And a likely scenario involves separate or simultaneous attacks on the nation’s largest ports – Los Angeles/Long Beach, New York City/New Jersey and Houston – that could cripple the nation’s economy. “Instead of talking 3,000 casualties, we are going to be talking about hundreds of thousands, or millions of casualties,” said Mike Intriligator, one of the nation’s leading economists and a professor of economics, political science and public policy at UCLA. Intriligator said the federal government has not responded innovatively to protect the country and instead has created a bureaucracy with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.