The Politics of Allocating Homeland Security Money to States

From the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management: “Politics or Risks? An Analysis of Homeland Security Grant Allocations to the States.”

Abstract: In the days following the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, the nation’s elected officials created the USA Patriot Act. The act included a grant program for the 50 states that was intended to assist them with homeland security and preparedness efforts. However, not long after its passage, critics charged the Department of Homeland Security with allocating the grant funds on the basis of “politics” rather than “risk.” This study analyzes the allocation of funds through all seven of the grant subprograms for the years 2003 through 2006. Conducting a linear regression analysis for each year, our research indicates that the total per capita amounts are inversely related to risk factors but are not related at all to partisan political factors between 2003-2005. In 2006, Congress changed the formula with the intention of increasing the relationship between allocations and risk. However, our findings reveal that this change did not produce the intended effect and the allocations were still negatively related to risk and unrelated to partisan politics.

I’m not sure I buy the methodology, but there it is.

Posted on October 7, 2010 at 7:03 AM10 Comments


DayOwl October 7, 2010 7:14 AM

Note the “partisan” politics qualifier. It could very well be political but not related to party politics.

Any government distribution of funds is going to be subject to political manipulation. There should be no surprise that politicians and their appointees act like…politicians!

David October 7, 2010 7:30 AM

It’s almost inconceivable that linear regression would produce useful results for a situation this complex.

Multivariate regression, maybe.

mpd October 7, 2010 8:39 AM

Mineapolis police got a few odd looking electric trikes, probably for chasing bandits on segways, fat people on hover rounds. They played with them for a week downtown then everyone lost interest, and maybe someone got to take them home like they do with the flat screen tvs that they take.
aint homeland security billions great?

Imperfect Citizen October 7, 2010 9:32 AM

@DayOwl I hear that.

Interesting about the partisan politics bit. I read a similar disclaimer on the FBI website (stating that they don’t target for political reasons) guess someone should tell the Merton Center folks about that one eh?

paul October 7, 2010 9:56 AM

As long as you have a substantial spread of high- and low-seniority legislators from each party (and a substantial spread of pro- and anti-administration positions within each party) you’re going to have way too much noise to get a clear signal based on affiliation alone. In addition, doing the analysis based on per capita allocations is going to mess you up even further. With the exception of major metropolitan areas as per se targets, plausible terrorist targets aren’t evenly located on a population basis. Nor is the cost of securing targets evenly distributed among target type.

Trichinosis USA October 7, 2010 10:07 AM

So I guess the taxpayer money allocated to guard a popcorn stand in Iowa was well spent… I feel so much better now. “Findings?” These guys couldn’t find their own butts with both hands and a flashlight.

Sleep tight America.

echowit October 7, 2010 10:27 AM

… not related to partisan politics.

At last, statistical proof that they’re all crooks.

Enigma October 7, 2010 4:43 PM

Strictly from a security perspective, it’s really not that difficult. You make your assessment based either on what you think the ‘bad guys’ will target or on what you most want to protect. Once that decision’s been made, you allocate your available resources accordingly.

In what is likely a forgotten step, you also perform audits of the spending. Holding people & agencies accountable for how fund are spent can minimize fraud, waste & abuse. If state & local governments had to immediately repay the feds for all purchases not directly related to security preparedness, that would likely put an end to using this money to fill budget shortfalls or other inappropriate purposes.

Of course, getting past the political wrangling is the tricky part. In our current disfunctional political environment, it would almost take a dictatorship to do that — which would then, of course, defeat the entire purpose.

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