DHS grant spending questioned amid budget woes

The Homeland Security Department paid for an underwater robot in a Midwest city with no major rivers or lakes nearby, a hog catcher in rural Texas and a fish tank in a small Texas town, according to a new congressional report highlighting what it described as wasteful spending of tax money intended for counterterrorism purposes.
Associated Press
Dec 5, 2012


Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said in his 54-page report that while much of the spending for the department's Urban Area Security Initiative appeared to be allowed under the program's rules, it was still inappropriate in an age of budget austerity and as the federal government faces a $16 trillion national debt.

"Every dollar misspent in the name of security weakens our already precarious economic condition, indebts us to foreign nations, and shackles the future of our children and grandchildren," Coburn said.

The report focused on UASI spending in the last few years in Arizona, California, Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, Ohio, Oklahoma and the National Capitol Region, which includes Washington and parts of Maryland and Virginia. Among the projects Coburn found questionable were:

—$21 for a fish tank in Seguin, Texas, a small town outside of San Antonio.

—$98,000 for an underwater robot in Columbus, Ohio, where there are no major rivers and few lakes nearby.

—$24,000 for a "latrine on wheels" in Fort Worth, Texas.

—A "BearCat" armored vehicle bought with a $285,933 grant in Keene, N.H., a small New England town that is home to an annual pumpkin festival that draws up to 70,000 people.

—$250,000 for security upgrades, including $9,000 in signage, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

The grant program stems from the 2001 terrorist attacks when the federal government pledged to help equip local governments to prevent future attacks and respond if they occurred. DHS has pumped billions to states over the past decade under the program that puts states in control of how the money is ultimately spent.

The security program is the department's most popular grant, and guidance for how money can be spent has evolved over the years. During the past decade there have been other examples of questionable homeland security grants, including infamous snow cone machines bought by Michigan officials last year. The department has no way of tracking how the money is spent and has not produced adequate measures to gauge what states and communities actually need, Coburn said.

DHS spokesman Matt Chandler said the department "fundamentally disagrees with the report's position on the value of homeland security grants and the importance of investments in our first responders on the front lines and the development of critical capabilities at the local level."

Chandler said the department's grant programs are evolving and changes proposed by the Obama administration reflect "a more targeted approach" to how federal money will be spent in the future.

Congress regularly complains about the lack of accountability of the grant programs but lawmakers are happy to have the federal dollars spent in their districts. And almost from the beginning the program has operated with political considerations.

In 2004, then-DHS Secretary Tom Ridge told a congressional panel asking about allotments to various cities that he was looking for a formula that get "218 votes in the House or 51 votes in the Senate, in order to get it done."

Coburn wasn't shy about shouldering some of the blame for the program's failings.

"Any blame for problems in the UASI program ... also falls on Congress, which is often more preoccupied with the amount of money sent to its cities than with how the money is spent, or whether it was ever needed in the first place," Coburn said.




I need new front struts on my truck, that's a matter of utmost security and protection...isn't it? Come on Santa..I'm mean DHS how about springing (get it - spring.....lol).


Hey Big Sis, I know someone in the government is listening, I mean if you have Naris to read every citizens E-mail, I know you read this! Please fix totallyamazed's truck!!!!


See, now I have community support. This is in the bag!


I need someone to pay off our car loan...its top secret to get that loan paid off. After all, its of national importance that I make it to Cleveland three times a year or my FBI file won't get updated. Can I get a grant for that one? Please respond immediately. And of course I need the insurance money as well for at least a year. Thanks so much.


I need someone to pay off our car loan...its top secret to get that loan paid off. After all, its of national importance that I make it to Cleveland three times a year or my FBI file won't get updated. Can I get a grant for that one? Please respond immediately. And of course I need the insurance money as well for at least a year. Thanks so much.


Didn't you jump on someone about double posts.


Dept. of Homeland Security was initiated by a Republican president. Aren't they the party that complains about growing the federal government?


Just another thing Bush did that Obama expanded. Guess what i think of Obama and his Bush like tendencys?
fas·cism (fshzm)
1. often Fascism
a. A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.
b. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a system of government.
2. Oppressive, dictatorial control.
http://www.thefreedictionary.com... Neat huh?


This was because the rural red areas whined about all the money going to NY. Homeland Security started out going to "high priority" locations, but republicans wanted their part of the action/pork.


until the man in the white house reins in this type of out of control spending let's go off the cliff!! the gop says that there are enough closures in loop holes to generate revenue yet the man in the white disagrees with that statement. this is a prime example of a loop hole that needs closed.


This kind of wasteful spending has been going on for years. It just came from a different account. We need to vote in someone who thinks like we do instead of men and women who have never done a physical thing in their life.


This is easily fixed....shut down Homeland Security. This was an unnecessary thing to begin with. Just close it down.

We met two people from Homeland Security guarding the Hoover Dam on July 4, 1996. There had been a bomb threat for the dam. What a joke, we had a small car packed to the roof inside. We drove from Tucson to Las Vegas. They were supposed to check each car but it was raining and the two of them were under a tent. Instead of checking the car, the waved us right on through. So much for homeland security in my book.


I want surveillance cameras to watch the neighbors. I am positive they are up to no good and that they are a threat to at least my security if no one else's. Can I get a grant for that?


I'm pretty sure there was no Homeland Security in 1996 so they must have been FBI or something and as far as not stopping you it was probably because you had too much crap in the car for them to go through in the rain. And that if you'd had a bomb in there you'd have already blown up way before you got to them. So you lucked out. I do wonder why we have such a presence by Lake Erie and wonder just how many illegals and/or terrorists are trying to get in that way. It does seem like wasteful spending.

Darwin's choice

Good paying union job is why!