DHS didn’t just pull its grant figures out of thin air; it first looked at threat assessments from the intelligence community, analyzed the vulnerability of critical infrastructure, considered how many people lived in given areas, along with what jobs those people did, and reviewed how much support local officials were able to provide.
After doing all that homework, it issued the grant requests that sent Rep. King and others into a frenzy. But if lawmakers want to point a finger at Chertoff, they should beware: When it comes to spending, four fingers point back at them.
Under a provision of the Patriot Act (passed by lawmakers), a significant portion of homeland security grants are simply divided among the states without regard to need or risk. Thus, at least 40 percent of state grants are nothing more than entitlement spending.
That’s fine for lawmakers who want to “bring home the bacon,” but most Americans would argue that homeland security is too important to serve as a pork barrel. If Congress would lift its restrictions and allow all homeland security spending to be based on risk, vulnerability and national priorities, more money could go where it’s really needed.
Under such a system, New York and Washington probably would get even more money than they’re getting now. Even so, they should still have to account for all their spending -- at least part of New York’s grant money is spent on overtime for police officers, which should be a local, not a national, responsibility.
The controversial DHS grants program is actually a step in the right direction. Instead of holding hearings and claiming their district was shortchanged, lawmakers should vote to allow more tax dollars to be allotted by need. That’s the best way to build a system that will help us be ready when the terrorists try to hit us again.