- Austin Statesman: Texas projects highlighted in national wasteful spending report
- Texas Watchdog: Six-figure drone, hog snares in Texas spotlighted in report critical of homeland security spending
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.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:
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.
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.