Homeland Security grants have paid for a garage full of anti-terrorism hardware.
But some are concerned that the equipment, and other equipment flooding into cities around the country, is not being used for the reason it was purchased.
The grants have helped pay for $500,000 worth of rolling SWAT command centers and $98,000 for an underwater response unit, including a submersible robot.
While some of the equipment does get used in Columbus and elsewhere, it never has gone to work against a terrorist attack.
A spokesman for the Columbus Division of Police said that’s OK.
“It’s priceless, because it can save a diver’s life,” said Sgt. Rich Weiner. “So that when you do have an incident, you’re able to go right out and take care of it.”
Critics question the value of the equipment and whether the threat justifies the cost.
Watchdog 10 used state data to find Ohio’s share of the Homeland Security pie since 2002.
Ohio has taken $602 million in federal grants.
Nationwide, the spending is even hire.
Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn questioned the spending, highlighting a tank for Santa in Fargo North Dakota, a hovercraft in Indianapolis and a zombie project, all paid for with Homeland Security dollars.
The “Zombie Apocalypse” used actors dressed as the walking dead to confront first responders. A fictional game that one critic said was a good metaphor for unrealistic Homeland Security spending.
Greg Lawson with the conservative Columbus think tank the Buckeye Institute, said there needs to be a fundamental overhaul in how Homeland Security operates.
“We’ve got to get real about this,” Lawson said.
At Ohio State University, Professor John Mueller said Homeland Security has never done a reliable cost-benefit analysis of its spending, which is now about $59 billion a year.
“You would basically have to have one huge Times Square attack every single day since 911 to justify the expenditures,” Mueller said.
Mueller even wrote a book about it, called “Terror, Security and Money.” In it, he said Homeland Security has never studied whether it is wasting money.
He said that was because people in power are afraid of the answer.
“In our opinion, if you do the analysis, you’re going to find we are spending too much money, and bureaucrats don’t want to be told they’re spending too much money,” Mueller said.
Homeland Security did not respond to questions posed by Watchdog 10.
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