Off Target

Congress has appropriated almost $ 10 billion for homeland security since 9/11, but Rep. Chris Cox (R-Calif.) Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee states that, “There’s a good deal of waste on homeland security expenditures that follows from the fact that we were in a big hurry after 9/11″. Instead of going to high-risk targets, he says, the bulk of the money is being doled out to communities whether they need it or not. “In some cases, the money just arrives”, Cox says, “It’s as if you’ve just won the Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes”. Here are some of the “targets” being protected:

• Tiptonville, Tenn. is getting $ 183,000. The mayor used the funds to purchase an all-terrain vehicle, two defibrillators, one of which is being used at high school basketball games, and protective suits for the volunteer fire department. Where is Tiptonville? Neither the town nor a road to get there is shown on rental car maps.
• Mason County, Wash. spent $ 63,000 for a decontamination unit that no one is being trained to use. It’s still crated in a warehouse.
• Newark, N.J. spent $ 250,000 of its homeland security money on air-conditioned garbage trucks.
• Converse, Tex. used its new homeland security trailer to transport riding lawnmowers to the annual lawnmower races.
• Columbus, Ohio is buying bulletproof dog vests for the fire department canine corps.
• Missouri spent $ 7.2 million for 13,000 hazardous material suits for every law enforcement officer in the state.
• Des Moines, Iowa prepared for its terrorist attacks by purchasing highway traffic cones.
• The Santa Clara County, Calif. sheriff’s office purchased four Segways with its funding.
• The Alameda County sheriff used homeland security funds to purchase underwater cameras that were used in the search for Lacy Peterson.
• Washington, D.C.’s mayor spent $ 100,000 to send sanitation workers to a Dale Carnegie course, another $ 300,000 for a computerized car towing service, and $ 100,000 for a summer jobs program, some of which went to developing a rap song on emergency preparedness. The mayor still has another $ 130 million to spend on homeland security and he’s scheduled to receive an additional $ 96 million.

Now that these fiascos have been uncovered, Congress is finally thinking about changing the way homeland security funds should be distributed and used. Senators Schumer, Kerry, Byrd and Feinstein, Stephen Flynn, Daniel Wagner, James Carafano, James Loy, Perry Trunick, Dawn Russell, Tom Thompson, Jay B. Grant, Steve Hunt, LA Councilwoman Janice Hahn, Charles Dragonette, Mexico’s President Vicente Fox … each of these officials, as a result of independent studies, has offered constructive criticism about the operations and the shortcomings within the Department of Homeland Security. The payoffs listed above, however, might be some of the reasons that their valid criticisms have been downplayed. [Maybe Congress could give some thought to those undocumented Asians that occasionally set up housekeeping in LA-bound containers?]