Saturday, December 08, 2012

Report: Federal homeland security funds supplant state and local spending in Texas

A pair of news stories out this week cited questions raised about federal homeland security funds spent in Texas and elsewhere in a report from Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn critical of wasteful spending of homeland security grants by cities:
Here's a link to the full report.

We've heard Gov. Perry over the years complain bitterly that Texas was being forced to perform Homeland Security tasks that the feds should be paying for, but this report argued that Texas' efforts have mostly been financed by the feds, noting that Texas:
appeared regularly to use federal DHS funding ... to supplant state and local government expenditures. As explained by the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety, much of the state’s homeland security spending now comes from the federal government. Reports are that federal taxpayer dollars accounted for 82 percent of the state of Texas’ $1.1 billion in homeland security spending last year. Reportedly, some of these funds were used for purchases such as “a $21 fish tank in Seguin, a $24,000 latrine on wheels in Fort Worth, and a true pork project — a hog catcher in Liberty County. Homeland Security dollars paid for body bags, garbage bags, and Ziploc bags. Beyond these ordinary purchases, however, were more unusual items such as two 2011 Camaros, each $30,884, used in Kleberg County.
Here are a few notable paragraphs that jumped out at me related to the use of unmanned drones by Texas law enforcement:
it was probably the Houston Police Department that was the first to attempt to purchase UAVs. Amid privacy concerns, the Houston Police Department in 2007 was forced to abandon its plans to acquire a drone. At the time, the police chief defended the purchase saying that it could be used to issue traffic tickets.

The Arlington Police Department in Texas had a different outcome and was able to secure a DHS grant to obtain a drone that was deployed during the Super Bowl in 2011 to help with security.206 The police department later searched for funds to continue operating the drone which it hoped to full-time for search and rescue operations and to investigate traffic accidents. ...

In Texas, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department successfully acquired a $300,000 Vanguard’s ShadowHawk drone fully paid with UASI dollars.216 Vanguard, located near Montgomery County, approached the sheriff’s department about procuring one of its unmanned systems, according to Chief Deputy Randy McDaniel. In fact, Vanguard helped the Sheriff’s department write “a winning grant proposal that allowed the entire cost of acquisition, training, insurance, and maintenance for a period two years to be absorbed in an Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) grant.” On the heels of this success, other agencies such as Harris County Sheriff’s Department have also shown interest in a similar acquisition. However, a Vanguard representative lamented that sales of drones would likely be affected given that federal grants are dwindling.
Nationally, federal homeland security dollars to cities have fallen in the last couple of federal budgets, and with the "fiscal cliff" looming one wouldn't be surprised to see these grants reduced even more significantly, leaving cities to pay more of their their own security costs. According to the report, the Department of Homeland Security "spent an estimated $35 billion on its grant programs over the past decade, including $7.144 billion for the Urban Areas Security Initiative, which provides grants to cities. Grits compiled this chart depicting spending by the federal UASI program over the last decade from data in the report:

According to a budget summary (pdf, p. 18) from DHS, the agency's "FY 2013 Budget includes $2.9 billion for State and local grants, over $500 million more than appropriated by Congress in FY 2012." The Obama Administration has proposed combining the UASI grant program with 15 others and reducing overall funding to $1.54 billion, noted Coburn's report. Even that smaller figure, though, requires improved oversight, concluded the Oklahoma Republican:
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.


rodsmith said...


"We've heard Gov. Perry over the years complain bitterly that Texas was being forced to perform Homeland Security tasks that the feds should be paying for, but this report argued that Texas' efforts have mostly been financed by the feds, noting that Texas:"

English translation

Typeical lieing sack of shit govt fucktard the universe would be better off if he had never existed!

Of course it's NEVER too late to correct that mistake

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget about the drone in Montgomery county that crashed into the armored SWAT tank. It was reportedly being piloted by an highly trained and experienced employee of the company that makes them. Now just imagine what will happen when an idiot with a badge is in charge:

Anonymous said...

Clearly there is much room for legitimate criticism of wasteful spending here.

But in looking through the Coburn report, the specific accusation of supplanting (highlighted in this post) is weak to the point of insignificance. Body bags, garbage bags, and Ziploc bags are highlighted in the report as examples of "ordinary purchases" that would be expected to come out of an agency's normal operating budget (hence, supplanting). But if these purchases were made to not for ongoing activities, but to create a stockpile of supplies in the event of a mass disaster event, they could easily be seen as a legitimate grant expenditure, and therefore not supplanting.

Supplanting is a particularly bad thing to do if you are a federal grantee. The feds hammer on supplanting all the time. If supplanting is identified in the course of a financial audit, the grantee organization must refund the money to the feds. All grantees know this. That isn't to say that is doesn't happen sometimes. But the implication of this post, that there is large scale, pervasive supplanting going on, is farfetched.

That said, this program and all federal criminal justice grant programs could be improved greatly by requiring a percentage of the grant be matched by the grantee organization. Most of these federal grants have no local match requirement. If the local officials have to get 15% or 20% of the project cost from their own tax revenues there will a greater incentive to spend money wisely.

Anonymous said...

All that spending on Homeland Security and they cross as if there were no border.