Sequester Mania: Coburn Says Let's Cut the Zombie Apocalypse Training, Sno-Cone Machines and Underwater Robots

Today, Senator Coburn sent another letter to the White House Office of Budget and Management and one to DHS with some suggested budget cuts to avoid layoffs and furloughs of essential government employees and programs. 

The OMB  letter outlines ten low priority government jobs that are being advertised on usajobs.com
(including drivers for the State Department). 
Eliminating these ten jobs alone could save as much as $1.4
million. Those funds could be redirected toward  more essential jobs
being targeted for sequestration.   The Senator has cut 7 full time
positions in his own office over the past year.  
A complete list of jobs can be found here.

Coburn asks: “Are any of these positions more important than an air traffic
controller, a border patrol officer, a food inspector, a TSA screener,
or a civilian supporting our men and women in combat in Afghanistan?”

The letter to the DHS pinpoints some programs at the DHS Urban Area Security Initiatve that might be cut to avoid impacting the department’s most important national security functions. “DHS believes sequestration will significantly impact the Department’s most important functions. The projected impacts are stark – longer lines at airports and border crossings, furloughed employees, halted research and reductions in disaster relief aid. However, these proposals may not be need to be implemented if we can focus the mandated cuts on wasteful, duplicative, ineffective and low-priority programs first.

Here is a list of some DHS spending that could be cut to protect higher priority missions. More information can be found at Senator Coburn’s report, Safety at Any Price

Zombie Apocalypse Training (see scary video): Grant funds were approved to pay the $1,000 fee for a week-long conference at Paradise Point Resort and Spa in San Diego. The marquee event over the summit, was its highly-promoted “zombie apocalypse” demonstration. Strategic Operations, a tactical training firm, was hired to put on a “zombie-driven show” designed to simulate a real-life terrorism event. The firm performed two shows on Halloween, which featured 40 actors dressed as zombies getting gunned down by a military tactical unit. (Pg. 24 & 25)

• Columbus, OH’s Underwater Robot: Columbus, Ohio recently purchased an “underwater robot” using a $98,000 UASI grant. The robot is mounted with a video providing a 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 returned to the Treasury. (Pg. 27 & 28 )

Surveillance at a Spring Training Stadium in Arizona: Arizona officials used $90,000 to install bollards and a video surveillance system at the Peoria AZ Sports Conference (where the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres play spring-training). (Pg. 26 & 27)

• Tank-like “Bearcats” to Protect Cities and Towns Everywhere (Including the Keane, NH Pumpkin Festival: Many cities or local governments have used UASI or DHS grant funds to purchase Bearcat armored vehicles. The small town of Keane, NH (population 23,000 purchased a Bearcat vehicle. The grant application cited protecting the town’s annual pumpkin festival for why the armored vehicle was needed. (Pg. 42)

• Seattle’s Remote-Control Helicopter (for Traffic Accident Surveillance): The Seattle Police Department used $41,000 in UASI funds to purchase a DraganFlyer X6 helicopter, though it insists it is not a drone. In fact, the Seattle Police Department has described the remote-control helicopter in a manner that raises questions about its utility (particularly for counter-terrorism), since they claim it can only fly 400 feet, it must not be flown above crowds, and can mainly be used for traffic accidents. (Pg. 45).    

Corburn’s DHS letter states “Taken together, the proposals in this letter identify billions of
dollars in immediate savings that would not require DHS to compromise
national security. By eliminating wasteful, duplicative, ineffective and
low-priority programs first,
rather than starting with its high-priority missions, DHS can
successfully navigate sequestration and continue to perform its vital
functions.”

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