July 14 2009

Policy Brief #23: Lawmakers Shouldn't Promote Waste in the Name of Homeland Security

Julie Gunlock

Executive Summary
American taxpayers have invested $22 billion to help states prepare for possible terrorist attacks. After eight years of funding, little is known about what has been purchased, whether local communities are more prepared than they were prior to 9/11, and if more funding is necessary. Moreover, there is alarming evidence that funding is regularly not used for its intended purpose.

Ideally, responsibility for disaster preparedness and response would be left up to states and
localities, which have the greatest understanding of their unique needs and what threats pose the greatest risk. The federal government ought to play an active role in informing states and localities of any intelligence about targets and tactics, but should trust the states to know how best to protect their people and infrastructure.

However, given that the federal government is likely to continue to play an active role in funding and overseeing emergency preparedness throughout the country, policies should be put in place that encourage efficient use of resources and maximize preparedness. In addition, the President should examine government-wide homeland-security-related grant programs in order to identify and reduce duplication. Once identified, the President and Congress should phase out and de-fund those grant programs found to be duplicative or inefficient.

Taxpayers deserve the highest level scrutiny of how their money is used, regardless of its intended
purpose. And indeed many of the grant programs housed in the Department of Homeland Security are duplicative and wasteful.

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