In a new report, Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) points out that America’s burgeoning homeland security apparatus is undermining the safety of the Nation with wasteful spending while robbing citizens of precious individual liberty.
Coburn’s report “Safety At Any Price: Assessing the Impact of Homeland Security Spending in U.S. Cities” takes a look at some of the ways that taxpayer dollars have been spent with the supposed purpose of making American cities safer.
The Senator singles out the Department of Homeland Security’s Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) which provides government grants for the militarization of local police forces and other localized homeland security initiatives. But Coburn argues that the Federal government’s careless handouts are leading to gross misspending on unnecessary equipment.
DHS has spent an estimated $35 billion on grant programs over the past decade, $7.144 billion of which was directed to UASI grants. Coburn argues that it is unclear whether the many billions in spending has actually served to make American cities any safer from potential terror threats, pointing out some questionable uses of the grant funding throughout the Nation.
- Michigan officials used DHS grant funding to purchase 13 sno-cone machines.
- Officials in Cook County, Ill., spent $45 million in DHS funds on a failed video surveillance network.
- City officials in Columbus, Ohio, were given $98,000 to purchase an underwater robot.
- The tiny New Hampshire town of Keene (pop. 23,000) bought an armored military vehicle for its 40 cops to use during patrols of the local pumpkin festival.
Coburn also outlines a number of more mundane expenses in the report such as purchases of office equipment for local police forces or security upgrades to sports complexes. The biggest concern, the Senator argues, is that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is unable to define how, specifically, the billions of dollars in spending directly improves homeland security or disaster preparations.
From the report:
Given our nearly $16 trillion national debt, and the federal government’s many competing responsibilities, it is important that Congress carefully consider what we can afford and what investments on anti-terrorism programs will yield the best return on investment in terms of improved security. Before Congress embraces a consolidation plan, and allocates another $35 billion in homeland security grants, it is essential that DHS’s address the difficulties it has had to this point implementing the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) and other DHS grant programs.
The report also pointed out that DHA allowed cities to use grant funds to pay for officials’ attendance at the HALO Counter-Terrorism Summit in San Diego in late October. “The marquee event over the summit, however, was its highly promoted ‘zombie apocalypse’ demonstration,” the report said.