Homeland Security Cuts Grants To States

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Over the past few years, DHS has been cutting funding for grants to state and emergency response agencies; the billions of dollars given to states after 2011 have been used to buy many pieces of first-response and law-enforcement equipment, and DHS now emphasizes the maintenance of that equipment.

DHS budget cuts mean local government will have to pay maintenance.

Over the past few years, DHS has been cutting funding for grants to state and emergency response agencies. The budget for fiscal year 2012 intended for state and local grants has been reduced to $2,374,681,000. This is a cut of $846,177,830 from the FY 2011 budget of $3,220,858,830. Similar levels of reductions have been imposed by state governments.

These cuts impose difficulties for states and municipalities that have come to rely on these grants for equipment acquisition, upgrade, and maintenance.

The Tennesseean reports on the impact in one such state, Tennessee.

DHS had granted $192 million to Tennessee for fighting terrorism, and the money was used for the acquisition of r remote-controlled bomb-handling robots; special equipment for collapsed building rescues; high-tech surveillance cameras; all sorts of boots, masks, and body armor; and food for police dogs. There was even a training seminar about how to apply for more money.

Now, however, concerns about runaway spending, coupled with budget reductions coming from Washington, are transferring most of the cost of maintaining high-tech equipment to the municipalities that have acquired the equipment.

One example is the Lenco-built Bearcat, an armored personnel carrier with a roof-mounted gun turret. The Bearcat is capable of driving into an explosive or hazardous “hot zone.”

Metro Nashville acquired one with a grant for $89,000 dollars, and has rolled it out on missions some 175 times.

Rutherford county is awaiting its own Bearcat, which will be shared with neighboring counties.

Other equipment purchased with DHS grants include card reader identification systems for government offices, license plate readers mounted on patrol cars and a $12,704 rolling surveillance robot for Williamson County; and Metro Nashville’s acquisition of an $8,988 3-wheeled stand-up vehicle, the T-3 Motion, which has carried officers about 300 times in two years. It is zero-gas-emitting, has a zero-degree turning radius, and is known for operating quietly. It can reach speeds of up to twenty miles per hour, and with its low center of gravity, is stable. In addition, the riding officer stands on a nine-inch platform, giving a much improved field of vision.

With no terrorist attacks in Tennessee, and the state’s cities considered unlikely targets, the equipment has been deployed for first response missions such as natural disasters, and for police activities such as automobile collisions, drug busts, and festival crowd control. Oftentimes, the equipment sits on shelves.

For its part, DHS recognizes that the amount funding granted to states and localities in the early years after 2001was substantial, and is now, in light of the funding cutbacks, emphasizing maintenance.

The Tennessean quotes Rick Shipkowski, deputy homeland security adviser for Tennessee. “They realize they have put billions of dollars into this program and have capabilities people couldn’t have dreamed of years ago, and it would be a shame to see those go to waste if we don’t prioritize sustaining them.”

This is a situation that is being played out across the United States, as states and municipalities grapple with shrinking grants resulting from DHS budget cuts.
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