No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

As we noted last week, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is taking a major step forward for national security by revamping the way that DHS hands out grant money. Instead of doling out anti-terror dollars to a lengthly list of mnor municipalities, DHS will now focus on 35 cities that are at the greatest risk of attack. This risk-based approach ensures that taxpayers get the biggest bang for their bucks and that the federal government’s limited anti-terror funds end up where they’ll do the most good. With Wyoming and Alaska getting more per capita than New York, the old system was clearly broken.
Still, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is not pleased and is calling for Chertoff’s resignation. His beef? Las Vegas, in his home state of Nevada, didn’t make the cut on DHS’s list of high-risk cities. “Anyone who can’t see that Las Vegas is a high-risk area doesn’t deserve to serve in a position like that,” said Reid.
Sen. Reid’s outburst illustrates what was wrong with the old grants system–and why Congress should act to fix the grant homeland security grant programs that aren’t yet risk-based. The federal government needs to use its money to build a national homeland security system, and that’s not going to happen if it trickles out a few dollars to the hometown of every politician who raises a stink. By moving to risk-based evaluation, Chertoff avoids this problem entirely, moving the process of making grants beyond politics. The 35 cities now receiving funding were chosen by a process involving “3.2 billion calculations aimed at determining regions most susceptible to terrorism.”
The major problem now is that hundreds of millions of dollars will still be distributed to states based on a complex formula set by Congress. As James Carafano has written, “The formulas that drive the grant process are turning homeland security initiatives into state entitlement programs.” Fixing these remaining problems should be high on Congress’s agenda–but that won’t happen if legislators can’t look beyond bringing bacon back to their home states and districts.

About Tim McDowell

Colorado ACFEI Member's Homeland Security Weblog
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