WASHINGTON – About $50 billion directed to homeland security this year has trickled down to the smallest states and counties. But do all Americans get their money's worth?
Take the case of Wyoming,which will collect at least $15 million from the terrorism money pie,and California with $133 million. But Wyoming,the least populous state with 494,000 residents,receives eight times more money per person than the most populous California,with 34 million people. That works out to $37.74 per person in Wyoming and $4.97 per person in California.
Spending on homeland security is 200 percent greater this year than in pre-Sept. 11,2001,years. But a new report says that money rations for homeland security “appear to be allocated without risk- and cost-benefit analysis.”
The study was released Thursday by a non-profit think tank,the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.
Veronique de Rugy,the report's author,said such misappropriation leads the Department of Homeland Security to a “large amount of wasteful spending.”
In keeping with the way Washington spreads federal taxpayer's money to the states, DHS follows an “all-state minimum formula” set by Congress that provides every state with a guaranteed minimum amount of state grants,regardless of size,risk or need,De Rugy said.
The Patriot Act equally divides 40 percent of the total DHS budget to each state,with smaller shares going to territories such as Puerto Rico. The remainder is distributed based on population.
She said the practice of spending money evenly across states is not supported by “reasoned analysis,” adding that more funding is needed for high-risk areas such as New York,Washington,Chicago and San Francisco.
“Maybe there is a rationale,and maybe my fear is not justified,but I think someone should ask because it's a very important question,” de Rugy said.
Following the formula,New York state receives $5.41 per person. U.S. territories' allocations per person are much higher – the U.S. Virgin Islands receives $104.35 per person; Guam,$90.36; and Northern Mariana Islands,$54.
The report said that,among the top 10 state and local governments receiving grants,only the District of Columbia appeared on a list of the top 10 most-at-risk places.
“States in rural,less-populated areas,or populated areas – but less likely to be targeted by terrorist acts – often receive a disproportionate amount of grant money,” the report said.
State and local governments have also misused homeland security grants,which have been the major way the federal government doles out money to states and local law enforcement,De Rugy said.
“The kind of security policy we want is one that will have low-cost to implement for us in terms of money spent,but with very high benefits. … Are we spending it well?” De Rugy said.
The report cited $98,000 spent on training courses by a fire department in Lenawee County,Mich.,that no one attended and $22,800 spent by Mason County,Wash.,to buy six radios that are incompatible with other county radios,among others.
But DHS officials said 14 audits of the department found no evidence of any systemic cases of fraud or abuse.
“Not one of those audits found systemic misuse or fraud in our grant programs. If there was systemic abuse,I'm confident,they would have found it,” said Matt Meyer,executive director of DHS Office of State and Local Government Coordination and Preparedness,who attended the conference at which the report was released.
Rep. Christopher Cox,R-Calif.,recently proposed a bill that would change the formulas,incorporate “threat analysis” and require DHS to assess likely targets nationwide. It would provide funding based on threat. The bill is before the House Homeland Security Committee.
Sens. Susan M. Collins,R-Maine,and Joseph I. Lieberman,D-Conn.,the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs,sponsored a similar bill that the committee approved Wednesday.
Both bills had been introduced in the previous session of Congress,but they failed.
The senators say they will encourage metropolitan areas that encompass several local governments to apply for extra grants.
Unlike the current system in which states all got at least 0.75 percent of all grant money,under Cox's bill and the one approved by the Senate committee,no state will receive less than 0.55 percent of total grants,leaving more money for high-risk areas.
Riskier states are those with ports,nuclear facilities or large metropolitan areas.
Lauren C. Rivera also contributed to this story.