Insane Homeland Security Spending Doesn’t Make Us Safer

After the 9/11 attacks, Congress and the Bush administration pretended that unlimited federal spending was one of the best ways to thwart terrorist threats. In 2002, Congress created the Homeland Security Department (DHS), sweeping some of the most inept federal agencies, such as the Secret Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), into the new mega-department. Congress also created numerous programs — some run directly by FEMA — to shovel out more than $30 billion in anti-terrorism funding to local and state governments.

You Get a Grant, and You Get a Grant, and You Get a Grant…

As Sen. Tom Coburn (R–Okla.) observed a few years ago, “FEMA’s lax guidelines and oversight made the agency a virtual rubber stamp for most anything that grant recipients creatively justified as related to homeland security — regardless of how loosely related.” Louisiana Homeland Security grant recipients spent $2,400 for a lapel microphone and $2,700 for a teleprompter. Fort Worth, Texas, spent $24,000 of a federal anti-terrorism grant on a latrine-on-wheels. Other Texas local governments spent Homeland Security grants on “a hog catcher for Liberty County, body bags, garbage bags, Ziploc bags and two 2011 Camaros at $31,000 apiece,” as a Senate report revealed.

DHS approved a Michigan police department’s spending $6,200 of its grant on 13 sno-cone machines. The Senate report noted that local officials “defended the sno-cone purchases saying the machines were needed to treat heat-related emergencies.” DHS also asserted that the machines were “dual purpose” because they “could be used to fill ice packs in an emergency.”

The Jacksonville Urban Area Security Initiative used a DHS grant to produce an 8-minute film entitled “Domestic Terrorism: The First Line of Defense.” The film urged viewers to report any suspicious activity and to be especially wary of people who are “alone or nervous” or people “of average or above average intelligence” (unlike the people who made the film). People were also told to be on the lookout for residents who displayed “increased frequency of prayer