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We can ‘safely’ assume, homeland security wastes a lot of money

How good are you at walking and chewing gum at the same time — mentally speaking?

For instance, can you vigorously support measures that really protect our nation, such as a strong military, yet at the same time oppose wasting money under the guise of enhancing “homeland security?”

Recently, as Kentuckians in communities across the commonwealth prepared to memorialize the 10th anniversary of the deadliest attack by terrorists on American soil, a reporter asked me whether Department of Homeland Security spending has made us safer.

That is the best — and only relevant — question when it comes to spending by this super-sized government agency.
Most Americans remember where they were when terrorists attacked us on Sept. 11, 2011. But how many know that:

• Homeland security spending nationwide increased by 305 percent between 2001 and 2009, according to the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

• Homeland security cost each Kentucky household an additional $600 in 2009, and yet even the Department of Homeland Security officials admit that $15.5 billion of the agency’s $50.5 billion budget in 2009 financed activities that have nothing to do with protecting our communities from terrorism.

Chew on these homeland security boondoggles: thousands of dollars to rescue yachters; firefighting training courses — that no one attended — in Tecumseh, Mich.; and a defibrillator for a basketball tournament at a Tennessee high school.

What do any of those have to do with protecting us from “all enemies, foreign and domestic?”

In Kentucky, more than $50 million worth of homeland security funds have found their way to the National Institute for Hometown Security in Somerset.

Does that kind of spending of your hard-earned money make you feel any safer? It went to some institute with “security” in its name with the stated mission to pay for “anti-terrorism” research at Kentucky universities.

Perhaps it’s my suspicious nature, but I started to walk — and chew my gum faster — when were told that millions of the dollars allocated for the Somerset security soirée would allow these universities to compete for even more research funds and projects aimed at improving homeland security.

So, millions of tax dollars were spent just so that presumably millions more in “research funds” could be snatched up by Kentucky universities.

I feel safer already. Don’t you?

Of course, that may not be as bad as some known shenanigans, such Estill County’s decision to use thousands of dollars in homeland security grants to help a local official buy retirement time for himself.

Auditors have frequently criticized the way some Kentucky counties and statewide agencies have either spent — or accounted for how they spent — homeland security money.

So, if we don’t know enough about how much of the money is spent, how could anyone even make a sound assessment about the contribution of such spending to our nation’s security?

Why couldn’t we send that $15.5 billion flowing through the Department of Homeland Security — but used for non-security related issues — to local emergency management agencies? It would be much easier to make them accountable. Yes, give a block grant to local communities and get rid of this federal monstrosity.

Not only would we likely be safer — because local communities could target spending in a way that meets their unique needs — but we would save billions.

Some incapable of walking and chewing at the same time might label such a view “soft” and accuse me of failing to take threats against our nation seriously.

But that’s a skewed view.

I take the threats against our security very seriously. But if you’re capable, chew on this: We must also stand up to threats that such profligate spending pose to our economic security.

Contributor Bio: Jim Waters is vice president of communications for the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. You can reach him at and read previously published columns at


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