DHS Budget and Spending

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Since 2003, DHS (Department of Homeland Security) has spent at least $30 billion on special anti-terrorism and emergency preparedness grants to state and local government, including over $327 million in direct funding to “fusion centers” as well as $812 million for “information-sharing” and related technology, within the United States. [1]

The Center for Investigative Reporting and the Center for Public Integrity have looked into DHS's spending and management of money and made some interesting findings:

"The goal is to fix the communication problems faced on 9/11 — to create “interoperability” that allows first responders from different disciplines and jurisdictions to communicate. From 2004 to 2008, the only years for which detailed figures are available, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) approved more than $4.3 billion in grant money to improve interoperability among first responders nationwide. DHS officials have said that more grant money has gone to interoperability than to any other initiative, and it continues to be a major focus for DHS grant programs, while also drawing funding from the economic stimulus package. Congress directed the vast majority of DHS interoperability dollars towards hardware: portable and car radios; “repeaters” that extended a signal’s range; antennae and tower systems. But an array of communications experts and even DHS officials say that equipment alone cannot create interoperability." [2] While Congress and DHS pushed for support for training and planning, 75% of interoperability funding was spent towards hardware in 2008. [3]

DHS Waste and Financial Mismanagement

In 2005, the Inspector General reported that "the ability of TSA screeners to stop prohibited items from being carried through the sterile areas of the airports fared no better than the performance of screeners prior to Sept. 11, 2001." [4] TSA also spent half a million dollars decorating its HQ, including a quarter million on art and thirty grand on silk plants. [5]

As reported by the Washington Post, "based on a comprehensive survey of hundreds of government audits, 32 Homeland Security Department contracts worth a total of $34 billion have "experienced significant overcharges, wasteful spending, or mismanagement. The value of contracts awarded without full competition increased 739 percent from 2003 to 2005, to $5.5 billion, more than half the $10 billion awarded by the department that year. By comparison, the agency awarded a total of $3.5 billion in contracts in 2003, the year it was created." [6]

Lack of Oversight of Monetary Grants

Since the creation of DHS, approximately $30 billion has been given to states and local communities as anti-terrorism and emergency preparedness grants. [7] The Center for Investigative Reporting has looked into the mismanagement of DHS grants by two states in particular, Alaska and California, and the lack of sheer DHS oversight over such grants.

In California, an investigation revealed many instances of wasteful spending, purchasing violations and poor oversight at agencies. [8] One particular California county used grant money to buy a big-screen television. [9] "Officials in Los Angeles County spent $20,000 on a Chevrolet Monte Carlo, $1,500 on a shotgun safe from the “Homeland Security Safe Co.,” and $3,558 on 70 replica firearms, none of which were permitted under grant guidelines." [10] Most importantly, this investigation has revealed a complete lack of documentation by California cities and counties in accounting for where and how federal grant money was spent. [11]

An investigation in Alaska revealed the large number of DHS grants that Alaska received when compared to more populous states. "Between 2002 and 2006, Alaska received at least $66.6 million from the most common preparedness grants distributed by the Department of Homeland Security putting the state behind only three others in per-capita spending: Vice President Dick Cheney’s home state of Wyoming, Vermont, and North Dakota. The amount is about $100 per Alaskan, more than double the per-capita figure for the state of New York and $70 more than for each California resident." [12]

Additional investigations by the Center for Investigative Reporting revealed additional wastes: "A $54,000 response trailer went virtually untouched in one Colorado community for four years. Another sat behind a fire station in Michigan with weeds growing around it. Louisiana bought dozens of new Dodge Durango SUVs totaling $1.4 million. In West Virginia, authorities used $3,000 for lapel pins and tens of thousands more went to unallowable overtime. The nation’s capital region spent $4.6 million on a media blitz to promote readiness." [13] Center for Investigative Reporting has included a map detailing state by state analysis of homeland security issues. [14]

External Articles and Resources


  1. [1],"Napolitano Speech," March 13, 2009.
  2. Sarah Laskow,"Homeland Security's Billion-Dollar Bet on Better Communications,", "Center for Public Integrity," February 16, 2010.
  3. Id.
  4. "Airport Security Is No Better, Two Studies Are Said to Find,", "New York Times," April 17, 2005.
  5. "Boxer Appalled by Wasteful Spending at TSA,","Barbara Boxer Press Release," April 21, 2005.
  6. Griff Witte and Spencer S. Hsu,"Homeland Security Contracts Abused,", "Washington Post," July 27, 2006.
  7. "A Troubled History,", "Center for Investigative Reporting," February 16, 2010.
  8. G.W. Schulz, "Homeland Security Marked by Waste, Lack of Oversight,", "Center for Investigative Reporting," September 11, 2009.
  9. Id.
  10. Id.
  11. Id.
  12. "Homeland Security Pays Dividends for Alaska,", "Center for Investigative Reporting," October 31, 2008.
  13. G.W. Schulz, "Tracking Homeland Security Funding,", "Center for Investigative Reporting," February 16, 2010.
  14. Id.