THE CHAIRMAN OF THE HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE
SAYS THE BULK OF SECURITY MONEY IS NOT BEING SPENT TO MAKE AMERICA SAFER -- "60 MINUTES" SUNDAY
Too much of the $10 billion allocated for homeland security is being spent to restock police and fire departments instead of directly toward homeland defense against terrorists, says the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. The chairman, Republican Congressman Chris Cox of California, speaks to Steve Kroft in a 60 MINUTES report to be broadcast Sunday, April 3 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
"It's pork barrel. It's the kind of distribution of funds that Washington always makes when politics comes before substance," says Cox. "We find that the monies are being doled out not necessarily according to national security risk, but rather, according to political formulas," he tells Kroft.
The pork barrel spending of these funds has reached $1.7 billion this year and much is being wasted, says Tom Schatz, head of a watch group called Citizens Against Government Waste. "It's exactly backwards. Instead of planning first and knowing where that money's going to go according to our priorities, it's, 'Now that I've got the money, what can I do with it?'" says Schatz.
But to the leaders of small, seemingly safe municipalities like Tiptonville, Tenn., where the fire alarm hasn't gone off in three months and the nearest big city is a couple hours drive, it's money for the taking. "Well, we would hope [the town is among the safest]. But. If [money is] available, we're going to apply for it," says Tiptonville Mayor Macie Roberson. Roberson received just $183,000, but it's more than he's ever gotten before in federal funds, so he purchased an all-terrain vehicle, protective suits for volunteer firefighters and defibrillators.
The federal homeland security money gets bigger for bigger cities where the risk of terrorism is higher, but the way they use it is also sometimes questionable. Newark, N.J., used $250,000 for air-conditioned garbage trucks. Columbus, Ohio, used some of its allocation to buy bullet-proof vests for the fire department's canine corps. The nation's capitol has received $145 million in funds, but has spent less than 10 percent of it. While Washington has used some of that to build an emergency services center, it has also purchased leather jackets for police, spent $100,000 to send sanitation workers to a Dale Carnegie course and another $300,000 on computerizing its car-towing service.
Washington Mayor Anthony Williams says the spending is security related. "Part of an orderly evacuation and mobility for people is clearing the roadways," says Williams, whose city still has another $96 million coming to it, in addition to the $130 million it has yet to spend from its homeland security allocation. The Dale Carnegie courses, says the mayor's office, train the sanitation workers to deal with panicky customers in the aftermath of a terrorist attack.
"Well, you know, that's one of the beauties of homeland security," says Cox. "In the end, everything has something to do with homeland security." Cox is hoping Congress will change the way the funds are being used when it deliberates on the subject soon.