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Senator’s report alleges waste in DHS grant program

Dec. 5, 2012 - 11:13AM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments
Sen. Tom Coburn's report said it is “uncertain” whether the more than $7 billion in grants handed out between 2003 and 2012 by DHS' Urban Area Security Initiative has contributed much to preparing for a terror attack.
Sen. Tom Coburn’s report said it is “uncertain” whether the more than $7 billion in grants handed out between 2003 and 2012 by DHS’ Urban Area Security Initiative has contributed much to preparing for a terror attack. (Alex Wong / Getty Images)

State and local governments have tapped federal homeland security grants to pay for snow cone machines, sports stadium fortifications and a training simulation that highlighted a “zombie apocalypse,” according to a report released Wednesday by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

Coburn’s report said it is “uncertain” whether the more than $7 billion in grants handed out between 2003 and 2012 by DHS’ Urban Areas Security Initiative has contributed much to preparing the nation for a terror attack.

The initiative, which the Obama administration this year proposed consolidating with other Department of Homeland Security grant programs, was originally intended to help high-risk urban areas prevent and prepare for terrorism attacks. Although the New York City metro area has been the biggest beneficiary, receiving about $1.4 billion since 2003, many other communities — such as in Bakersfield, Calif., and San Juan, Puerto Rico — have also gotten funding, the report said.

One Michigan agency received $6,200 to buy 13 snow cone machines on the grounds that they could be used to fill ice packs in an emergency. In Arizona, officials used more than $90,000 in grants to installs bollards and a video surveillance system at a sports complex used by the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners for spring training. And in California this year, DHS officials approved funding for an anti-terrorism summit that featured “40 actors dressed as zombies getting gunned down by a military tactical unit,” the report said.

The report criticized the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the branch of DHS with direct responsibility for the program, and Congress for faulty oversight.

In an email, DHS spokesman Matt Chandler said the department “fundamentally disagrees” with the report’s position on the program’s value in bolstering the capabilities of police and other first responders. He added, however, that this year’s proposed consolidation will ensure that federal dollars are used to address national priorities “while incorporating measures of effectiveness to ensure accountability.”

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