San Antonio was recently granted $1 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which lies within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) according to a congressional statement submitted to Breitbart Texas. The grant was given through the agency’s Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) and aims to bring funding to “high risk” urban areas in order to improve security. In the past, doubts have been raised as to whether UASI grants yield a return on investment with respect to improved security.
Texas Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar believes UASI grants are a smart investment. He said in a release, “UASI has a proven track record of success giving first responders the tools they need to respond to terrorist attacks and other disasters.”
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the UASI program allocates a total of $587 million to help cities “in building an enhanced and sustainable capacity to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from acts of terrorism.”
39 U.S. cities received the funding for Fiscal Year 2014 according to the congressional announcement. There are no Congressional votes on UASI funding–rather, grants are allocated based on DHS’ risk methodology. Publicly-accessible FEMA documents state that an analysis of the 100 most populated U.S. cities and their “relative risk of terrorism” determines recipients and the exact dollar amount they receive.
Cuellar said, “I have been supportive of increased funds for the UASI program as a Member House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security and in collaboration with the San Antonio congressional delegation and I am pleased to see the City of San Antonio receive this federal investment that will keep our community safer and support the men and women who are the first to arrive when we need them most.”
Questions have been raised, however, as to what safeguards are in place to ensure that UASI funds are properly spent.
In December 2012, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) analyzed the grant program and found a large portion of allocated funds had been irresponsibly spent. Coburn found that “taxpayer money spent on homeland security grant programs has not always been spent in ways obviously linked to terrorism or preparedness… When asked, FEMA could not explain precisely how the UASI program has closed security gaps or prepared the nation in the event of another attack. In part, FEMA has done very little oversight of the program, allowing cities to spend the money on almost anything they want, as long as it has broad ties to terror prevention.”
The Oklahoma Senator’s report mentioned numerous examples of seemingly-ridiculous spending of UASI funds. Officials in Michigan once used the grant to buy snow-cone machines; an “underwater robot” was purchased with Ohio’s UASI funding; Illinois spent their $45 million grant on a failed video surveillance system.
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