First let's take care of some business:
- If you voted for Obama and our offended that I called him a "brain-addled fool" get over it. He's more interested in beating Republicans than he is in providing an environment in which you can thrive. If you are still offended you are a brain-addled fool as well. America doesn't get better until you get off your knees and stop worshiping Barack Obama.
- If you voted a Republican into Congress, (that's the House and/or Senate for those of you with a public school education) you sent brain-addled fools there thinking they were going to do your bidding for you when in reality all they are interested in is beating Democrats. If you are still offended you are a brain-addled fool as well. America doesn't get better until you clean the GOP's house and put in people who care about America and not their political positions.
Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) is one of the few people in Washington who actually cares about how dysfunctional and corrupt the Federal government has become. I've taken him to task on some things that I disagree with him on, especially regarding private property rights, but he's spot on about the Department of Homeland Security. He's put a nice little report together about waste and fraud in the DHS and the grants they give out to pretty anyone who asks for one--regardless of the reason.
From the Coburn report:
It has been noted that police departments are arming themselves with military assets often reserved for war zones. One California resident observed as much when officials in Carlsbad—a city with one of the state’s lowest crime rates—expressed interest in using DHS funds to buy a BearCat: “What we're really talking about here is a tank, and if we’re at the point where every small community needs a tank for protection, we’re in a lot more trouble as a state than I thought.”
Without any further adieu let's take a look at some highlights of your local governments stealing from your Federal government using your money. (Did you notice that the common denominator in all that theft is you?)
- The West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission purchased of 13 sno-cone machines with $6,200 in homeland security grant money. Defending the purchase, FEMA asserted it was, in fact, an allowable expense under its guidelines. FEMA explained that it approved the sno-cone machines because the grantee characterized them as a dual purpose investment that could be used to fill ice packs in an emergency as well as to help attract volunteers at community outreach events. Local officials also defended the sno-cone purchases saying the machines were needed to treat heat-related emergencies. Yet, while the officials could easily account for how many times the machine had been used at community outreach events, they “did not know” how many heat related medical emergencies the area had experienced in the past that would justify the purchase.
- Buffalo, New York, officials attempted to charge $934,000 to UASI for personnel costs for a police chief, captain, and local fire department employees deployed to conduct routine patrols during an orange heightened alert period. The city would have incurred these costs regardless of the heightened alert level. The bill ended up being paid by a state funded accounts.
- Tulsa, Oklahoma officials spent $150,000 of DHS grant money on cameras and security barriers at the Tulsa County jail. In the official grant documentation, officials stated that this purchase was responsive to DHS’ goal of protecting critical infrastructure and key resources as a preparedness investment.
- Columbus, Ohio recently purchased an “underwater robot” using a $98,000 UASI grant. Known also as a “remotely operated underwater vehicle,” the robot is mounted with a video camera providing 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 been lost. The Columbus dive team, however, is responsible only for underwater search and recovery missions – not for rescue missions that may happen during a terror attack. One of the team’s higher profile missions in recent years was the recovery of a $2 million “sunken treasure” in the Scioto River.
- Reports found that Fargo, North Dakota, received more than $8 million in homeland security grants, which is significant considering its local crime record. Fargo, a town which “has averaged fewer than 2 homicides per year since 2005” bought a “new $256,643 armored truck, complete with a rotating [gun] turret” using homeland security funds. Fargo Police Lieutenant Ross Renner acknowledges that Fargo “[does not] have every-day threats here when it comes to terrorism.” It is for this reason perhaps that as of December 2011 the vehicle was only used for “training runs and appearances at the annual Fargo picnic, where it’s been displayed near a children’s bounce house.”
- Olathe Fire Department outside Kansas City. Olathe used a $151,000 UASI grant to purchase a bomb detection robot despite already having two. Local officials let one of the broken robots sit largely unused for four years, but brought the robot back online after two high schoolers were asked to repair it, which they did for only $5. Two months later, the city decided to purchase a new state-ofthe-art Remotec Andros F6B anyway with its funding from DHS. Bomb squad commander, Capt. Cody Henning, explained that the old robot was still functional, but was “on part-time status now.” The new robot, nicknamed “Tin Man,” made its public debut recently when concern over a suspicious package shut down a significant portion of The Great Mall of the Great Plains. News outlets gathered to record the Tin Man as it made its way in to inspect the item. It turned out to be a “stained cardboard box filled with paper booklets.”
- In Keene, New Hampshire residents revolted against the town’s plan to acquire a BearCat, developing their own motto – “thanks, but no tanks.” Residents viewed the vehicle as an unnecessary purchase even though it is being paid for though a DHS grant worth $285,933.Although the town has had just two murders in the past 15 years, Keene Police Captain Brian Costa argued that “when this grant opportunity came up, it made a whole bunch of geographic sense,” since none of the five armored vehicles already in the state are not located in southwestern New Hampshire where Keene is located. He further stated that the vehicle would have been useful during the 2005 floods where the police department lost a cruiser. The grant application for the BearCat cited the 2004 Pumpkin Festival and the 2007 Red Sox Riots, when the Red Sox won the World Series as examples of incidents when the BearCat could be used. The Pumpkin Festival is an annual event with 70,000 visitors, many who come to Keene in hopes of breaking the world record of lighting the most Jack’o’Lanterns. The current world record holder is Boston with 30,128 lit pumpkins. Local law enforcement considers the festival a possible target for terrorists. “Do I think al-Qaeda is going to target Pumpkin Fest? No, but are there fringe groups that want to make a statement? Yes,” said Kenneth Meola, Keene Police Chief.
- Indianapolis approved $5,000 to spend on office supplies to sustain its training and exercise program.
- Indianapolis also spent more than $69,000 in 2007 to purchase a new Neoteric hovercraft for water-based search and rescue operations. This latter purchase raised the eyebrows of even one local official who noted, “Homeland security money is not just for taking care of your, "everyday needs that you have for public safety. First and foremost, it’s there for protection and prevention in terrorism.”
- Indianapolis officials also set aside nearly $19,000 to purchase 10 digital cameras and related accessories to assist in arson investigations and $25,000 for “travel and training” outside of the “UASI Area.” In 2008, officials also budgeted $42,000 for an “access control system,” and $74,500 for “Portable Barriers,” for the Indiana Stadium and Convention Building Authority.
- Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, officials sought to spend nearly $45,000 for license plate readers that have been used not to stop terrorists, but to catch thieves.
- Livingston, Louisiana, officials spent $10,000 for a flight course to train search and rescue pilots on normal and emergency flight procedures which officials described as “essential to responder safety and health” so that the project fit neatly into one of DHS’s pre-approved criteria.
- Arizona officials spent over $90,000 in UASI grants to install bollards and a video surveillance system to monitor the main stadium, clubhouses, and training fields at the Peoria Sports Complex, which is used for spring training by the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners and also hosts concerts and car shows. Officials described the facility as a revenue generator for the City of Peoria, yet did not provide any of its own funding for the security equipment.
- Officials in Indiana authorized over $250,000 for security enhancements at Lucas Oil Stadium—home of the Super Bowl XLVI in 2012—including $9,000 for signage.
- The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) was reimbursed for costs to backfill for certain positions in the fire department based on estimated rather than actual hours worked. The DHS IG found that FDNY claimed $143,437 in backfill expenses for employees who worked overtime to perform duties of other employees who were attending training. However, the amounts claimed were based on a model that computed estimated backfill personnel expenses rather than actual time charges on payroll records. Additionally, New York City’s 2011 budget included plans to spend over $24 million in federal homeland security grants to pay overtime to its police department. Overtime and backfill are allowable expenses under DHS’ grant programs, which DHS makes clear.
- Hamilton County, Indiana, officials set aside $100,000 for television, radio and other media advertising (including billboards and transit ads) for public outreach campaigns and volunteer recruitment.
- Officials in Ascension Parish, Louisiana spent over $2,700 to purchase a teleprompter which officials characterized as meeting the national priority to expand regional collaboration.
- Plaquemines, Louisiana spent $2,400 for a lapel microphone.
- The Kansas City Metropolitan Emergency Managers Committee spent a portion of a recent grant to produce a new online video series called “A Tale of Disaster and Preparedness” The series features characters of the same name and its first episode urges people to develop emergency plans in their homes in the event of a natural disaster or terror attack. Most of the advice offered in the film is little more than common sense suggestions like “have an emergency plan” and “know the potential threats.” The message of the video, however, is presented as a steady stream of jokes, like the one pictured below warning people to prepare for a “terror attack.” Among its non-specific tips included keeping an eye on people of “average or above average intelligence” or who appear to display “conspicuous adaptation to western culture and values.” Other signs that someone might be up to no good were: “increased frequency of prayer or religious behavior,” being “alone or nervous,” or “mumbling prayers.”
- The Fairfax County Police Department in Virginia, part of the National Capital Region around
- Washington, D.C., spent nearly $12 million to upgrade its automated fingerprinting system called NOVARIS and purchased mobile devices for use by officers in the field. Digital fingerprinting had been in place for Fairfax police since the early 1980’s, but the county applied for, and won, UASI funds to purchase a new state-of-the-art system, that would also help it coordinate with neighboring counties. “Since it was due for an upgrade, we took the opportunity to use the UASI grant funds to refresh the system,” explained Alan Hanson with the department.
- A review of Arizona’s UASI grant awards shows that several police departments and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office used UASI grants to purchase armored vehicles. In 2011, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office used two armored vehicles and a SWAT team to conduct a raid of the residence of a man suspected to be involved in cockfighting. The actor Steven Seagal, who was then filming his television show ‘Lawman,” participated in the raid and rode in one of the armored vehicles.
- Local police departments used $90,000 in UASI and other DHS funds to purchase “Long-Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD)” machines. LRAD machines were originally developed for use by the ilitary as a nonlethal way to repel adversaries, including Iraqi insurgents or pirates, by making a loud and intense sound that is capable of damaging hearing. Law enforcement agencies have purchased LRAD machines for purposes that include crowd control and issuing message and alerts across vast distances, though its use in terror-related preparedness is questionable.
Read the full report here: Safety At Any Price: Assessing the Impact of Homeland Security Spending in US Cities