2004 October 15 Friday
Homeland Security Money Being Wasted On Rural Areas

Homeland security money is going disproportionately to states that are least likely to be targetted by terrorists.

For instance, Alaska has $2 million in homeland security funds it apparently doesn't know what to do with. The state recently proposed buying a jet with the money; the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said no, but was "happy to entertain" other options.

Further, the money that went to Alaska is three times the amount per resident than went to New York - clearly a problem, unless the general consensus is that Alaska poses a greater terror risk than New York.

James Jay Carafano of the Heritage Foundation reports that even within states money is allocated toward rural areas.

Within states, rural, less populated areas often receive a disproportionate amount of money as well. For instance, in Iowa, the capital city of Des Moines, population 199,000, will be receiving $250,000. Sioux County, Iowa, with a population of 31,600, will be receiving $299,000.

Other spending is curious, too. Reportedly, California distributes its federal grants in base-amounts of $5,000 to each county, an amount so small that it is difficult to imagine how it could be used productively.

Even the Urban Area Security Initiative grants, monies targeted at major population areas that are also considered potential targets, produce some strange results. The three criteria used are population density (50 percent of the weight), presence of critical infrastructure (one-third), and finally, credible threats (about one-sixth). Using this formula, San Francisco, with a population of 800,000 and Los Angeles, with a population of 4 million, get about the same amount of money. As Rep Anthony Weiner (D-NY) correctly pointed out in recent Congressional hearings, this formula seriously undervalues actual intelligence and known targets.

It is not hard to figure out where terrorists are most likely to strike. They want to hit places where there are high concentrations of people. They want to hit high profile targets and national symbols. New York City and Washington DC stick out as by far the most likely targets.

Veronique de Rugy reports that there is considerable resistance in Congress to channelling homeland security money to where it will do the most good.

And right at the beginning of the third debate Kerry even insinuated that the current administration had cut homeland security funding. That may seem surprising to some, since proposed funding for homeland security for FY2005 is $47 billion, a staggering 180 percent increase since 2001. But Kerry's instinct to spend more is hardly unusual. Too many politicians focus on the level of spending and too few consider the quality of that spending.


While most lawmakers seem content with the status quo, even hoping to increase the cash flows allocated in this manner, Republicans are moving toward a consensus that the allocation of homeland-security spending needs to be based on more rational, cost-benefit analysis. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Chris Cox (R., Calif.) has been fighting to change the criteria used to allocate these funds so that they are based exclusively on the risk of terrorist attacks and the magnitude of potential damages. Democrats are vehemently opposed to this idea. Senator Leahy, for instance (D., Vt.), a member of the powerful Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, argues that dropping the all-state minimum formula would "shortchange rural states." For some, apparently, homeland security is becoming another entitlement program.

We have far too many big buildings, tunnels, subways, airports, and the like to harden and defend them all. The bigger focus ought to be on keeping terrorists away from the homeland in the first place. The homeland security spending ought to be channelled away from aid to states and more toward border control, visa screening, and tracking of higher risk foreigners within the US. Given the massive upcoming fiscal crisis that will hit when the baby boomers start to retire we can not afford to treat the threat of terrorist attacks on US territory as an excuse to waste billions of dollars per year on pork barrel spending.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 October 15 12:18 PM  Politics American Domestic

John S Bolton said at October 15, 2004 11:55 PM:

For less than 10% of that $47 billion of homeland security funds, they could clear out more than a million foreign criminals a year. That would break up terrorist cells wholesale. To do this, though, would require a belief that quality of population is important, or the willingness to appear as not being militantly against such a belief. Those who live by aggression against the net taxpayer, would have to give up hopes for a major expansion of the alternative welfare society, by means of anti-merit immigration. Leaders are afraid to be seen as anti-egalitarian, even though the most egalitarian regimes, like the khmer rouge, have been the most destructive per unit of time, in destroying the largest percentages of the people of countries of millions.

Andrew said at October 16, 2004 12:34 PM:


While I think the articles you cite raise some important red flags, I question using dollar-per-capita as the most important figure-of-merit for Homeland Security spending. If, for instance, there was a focus on improved border security, spending in Alaksa might be quite effective on a dollar-per-mile-of-coastline, or dollar-per-mile-of-border-with-a foreign-country basis.

Sean said at October 19, 2004 7:19 PM:

The spending makes sense when you consider who will be saved - sensible Republicans... Seems a waste to spend money protecting idiotarian Democrats...

John S Bolton said at October 21, 2004 2:37 AM:

Less than 5% of that $47 billion homeland security money would, in two years or so, build a fence such as Israel is constructing, which has greatly reduced their terrorist vulnerabilities. This anti-Mexican fence, would pay for itself faster and longer than possibly any large public investment conceivable. After two decades it would probably save more than $100 billion a year. Latino median personal income is only 12k/year, yet very few of them don't have at least one child in school at the net taxpayers expense. The imputable medical insurance premium for a Mexican criminal running loose in America is at least thousands of dollars a year. Stopping ten million such criminals would then save more than $100 billion a year, in probably less than two decades. Our officials are in sympathy with the ever-so-easily wounded feelings of the Mexican, who doesn't like it that his people are fenced out like vicious animals, but why are they out of sympathy with the net taxpayer of America?

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