Sen Coburn: DHS Security Grants not Funding Security Measures

Sen Coburn: DHS Security Grants not Funding Security Measures

On Dec. 5, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) released a report providing an overview of the $35 million the Department of Homeland Security has spent on grant programs since 2003.

Ostensibly, the money was to be spent in a way that enhanced public security. Thus the money is labeled “security spending.” 

However, what Coburn discovered is that the money is often not enhancing security in any way. And because funds are limited, the specious spending Coburn discovered is actually “making our nation less secure by directing scarce dollars to low-priority projects and low-risk areas.”

In the report, Coburn lists multiple examples of such spending. 

A pertinent one for my purposes is a DragonFlyer X6 remote-controlled helicopter the Seattle Police Department (SPD) purchased using $41,000 in DHS funds. The SPD has bent over backwards to say this is not a drone, as it flies too low to go undetected, and it will not be used over crowds. It seems the singular purpose for the helicopter will be related to traffic incidents and accidents. 

Coburn questions the utility of such a purchase — Couldn’t the $41,000 have been used in a way that would provide more tangible security benefits?

He also focused on the $90,000 used to “install bollards and a video surveillance system at the Peoria AZ Spring Training facility” for the Seattle Mariners and the San Diego Padres. Couldn’t that $90,000 have been used in a way that actually bettered security for the citizens of Peoria or the larger city of Phoenix, of which it is a part?

Here’s a problem Coburn’s study helps demonstrate — Much of the DHS funding has gone toward any product a police department or municipality conceives of as beneficial at the moment. And in some cases, this means things have been purchased just to justify the existence of DHS grants.

As a result, companies like DragonFlyer advertise “Department of Homeland Security…grants” on their websites. Actually encouraging “states, local and tribal jurisdictions, and other regional authorities” to contact the DHS to see if they too can get money for a remote-controlled helicopter for their police departments and/or cities.

It is bureaucracy gone wild.