DHS Homeland Security Grant Program: the influence of committee membership on grant allocations for FYs 2004-2006
Since the terrorist attacks of September 11th, national interest in the United States has shifted focus from issuing offensive attacks against enemies on foreign soil, to defending the safety and security of Americans within its own borders. The establishment of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2002, and subsequently the DHS Office of Grants and Training (G&T), were several steps Washington lawmakers took to respond to Americans' growing fears that terrorism could strike again at any time. G&T, in particular, aimed to provide states and local jurisdictions with the resources needed "to prevent, respond to, and recover from incidents of terrorism involving chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosive (CBRNE) weapons, and cyber attacks" (DHS, 2006). There are several grant initiatives that fall under G&T, but the Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP) provides funding to states and local entities so that they may better equip themselves to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks, while more effectively implementing homeland security strategies. States and cities can use HSGP resources to fund preparedness planning, provide training and exercises, and pay for administration resources and equipment. However, despite the best intentions many in Washington had for this program, there is evidence that HSGP is simply becoming another outlet for "pork," in which political influences are able to determine to which states DHS allocates the bulk of homeland security grant money. Currently, there are a number of issues at play, all of which make the grant program complex, and therefore susceptible to political manipulation. These include: 1) a two-part formula used for certain programs within HSGP. One part consists of a mandatory base payout to every state and U.S. territory, regardless of risk, need, population, or other factors; the second is discretionary, and involves DHS taking all money available after this payout (for certain programs within HSGP) and distributing these remaining funds to individual states or urban areas, based on its own formula the department creates; 2) evidence that states with no prior terrorist activity are receiving disproportionately large shares of funds while states and cities previously affected by terrorism are witnessing significant cuts in grant money; and 3) widespread concern that numerous pet projects unrelated to reducing the threat of terrorism are being funded with grant money, simply due to their affiliation with DHS. This paper will look at the influences Congress has over homeland security appropriations to determine if such authority is indicative of a HSGP pork barrel.
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