December 14, 2012 at 1:24 pm #174706
Title: Safety at Any Price:
Assessing the Impact of Homeland Security Spending in US Cities
Author: Senator Tom Coburn (OK)
American cities have long been symbols of strength, freedom, progress and ingenuity, representing some of the best our nation has to offer. The threat of an urban terror attack, however, has made many feel less safe than they used to. While most of our cities have never been struck from the weapons of terrorists, we know the possibility is a real one. In 1995, the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, which killed 168 people and injured more than 800, showed our nation the horrors of a terror attack in a major city. In the years that followed, attempted terrorist attacks like at the Seattle millennial celebration in 1999 were thankfully disrupted by law enforcement authorities. Of course, everything changed when New York City and Washington, D.C. were attacked in 2001. Americans understood that an organized enemy was plotting and attempting spectacular terrorist attacks in American cities.
For the past ten years, Americans have struggled to know just how to respond—including our leaders and elected officials. Sensing that many major cities were not fully prepared for another September 11th style attack, Congress gathered more than 20 agencies into a new Department of Homeland Security (DHS). DHS was tasked with managing several grant programs, including the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI). UASI was one of several new federal programs aimed at ramping up preparedness and closing security gaps in major cities that were most at-risk.
UASI grants were designed to be start-up investments to help the most vulnerable urban areas enhance both their readiness and response capabilities. Officials in one urban area said it was well known that the grants were “seed money” and “everyone knew [federal] money would not be around forever.”3 Success for the UASI program, therefore, would be defined by it growing less needed, not more. DHS has since spent an estimated $35 billion on its grant programs over the past decade,4 including $7.144 billion for UASI Urban areas.
After a decade in operation and many billions spent, it is unclear to what extent UASI and other DHS grant program have made our nation’s cities safer and more prepared. The question was given added urgency by this year’s significant reduction in the program’s funding and size.
Having grown rapidly from an early focus on seven major cities to as many as 64 in recent years, budgetary realities trimmed it back to 31 for 2012.
Large and small cities alike have been lobbying to get the funds restored to formerly high levels. This is especially true for cities that saw their funds dry up and aren’t traditionally considered the targets of terrorists, like Riverside, California; Bridgeport, Connecticut; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Toledo, Ohio; Richmond, Virginia; Albany New York; and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
This report examines the UASI grant program, including a detailed review of 15 cities that have received funding through the program. It is intended to assess whether spending on DHS antiterrorism grants like UASI have made us safer, and whether the taxpayer dollars that have been spent on these programs have yielded an adequate return on investment in terms of improved security.
December 14, 2012 at 1:28 pm #174709
Additional Information and COMMENTARY from Ms. Smith’s Network World Blog
Terrorism Fear button and funding: Ridiculous DHS spending
While discussing the $16 trillion national debt and the outpouring of DHS antiterrorism grants, Senator Tom Coburn alerts us to ludicrous counterterrorism spending that can be acquired by pressing the FEAR button. Yet ‘North America is the least likely region to suffer from terrorism’…
Did you hear the joke about how terrorists infiltrated a pumpkin parade? How about the one where security sno-cone machines stopped a terrorist plot from being launched? Me neither, but the “joke” is on us since we helped foot the $34,700 bill for both.
While discussing the $16 trillion national debt and the outpouring of Homeland Security antiterrorism grants, U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D., alerts us to ludicrous spending on frivolous items that seem far-fetched when it comes to combatting terrorism or making the country any safer. Easy FEAR buttonIt’s reminiscent of the Senate report about “useless” fusion centers which have never uncovered a single terrorist plot, despite spending money like it’s fake from a Monopoly game. You know the big red “Easy” button? Besides the cost passed on to the people, the Fear button is constantly the “Easy” button to attain DHS’s UASI grants for new surveillance technology that are decimating privacy and civil liberties.
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