Oversight Report: Assessing the Impact of Homeland Security Spending in U.S. Cities


Today, Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn released an oversight report titled, “Safety at Any Price: Assessing the Impact of Homeland Security Spending in U.S. Cities.” According to the report, since 2003, more than $35 billion dollars has been spent on Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grant programs. “This report examines the UASI [Urban Area Security Initiative] 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.”

“This report shows that too often so-called security spending is making our nation less secure by directing scarce dollars to low-priority projects and low-risk areas,” Dr. Coburn said.

“For instance, paying for first responders to attend a HALO Counterterrorism Summit at a California island spa resort featuring a simulated zombie apocalypse does little to discourage potential terrorists. I hope this report encourages DHS to award funds based on calculated risk, not politics. Congress has a duty to ensure that this grant program does not become a parochial, pork-barrel entitlement program. We need to help the program fulfill its original goal of providing funds for projects in areas most at risk,” Dr. Coburn said.

A few of the questionable spending items include:

  • Zombie Apocalypse Training: Grant funds were approved to pay the $1,000 fee for a week-long conference at Paradise Point Resort and Spa in San Diego. The marquee event over the summit, was its highly-promoted “zombie apocalypse” demonstration. Strategic Operations, a tactical training firm, was hired to put on a “zombie-driven show” designed to simulate a real-life terrorism event. The firm performed two shows on Halloween, which featured 40 actors dressed as zombies getting gunned down by a military tactical unit. (Pg. 24 & 25)
  • Columbus, OH’s Underwater Robot: Columbus, Ohio recently purchased an “underwater robot” using a $98,000 UASI grant. The robot is mounted with a video providing a full-color display to a vehicle on shore. Officials on the Columbus City Council went so far as to declare the purchase an “emergency,” not because of security needs, but because of “federal grant deadlines.” If the money was not spent quickly, it would have returned to the Treasury. (Pg. 27 & 28 )
  • Surveillance at a Spring Training Stadium in Arizona: Arizona officials used $90,000 to install bollards and a video surveillance system at the Peoria AZ Sports Conference (where the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres play spring-training). (Pg. 26 & 27)

    To view the report click here.

    Article formerly posted at https://www.hsdl.org/blog/newpost/view/s_4682