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Coburn Safety at Any Price

Coburn Safety at Any Price

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Published by Aaron Nobel

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Published by: Aaron Nobel on Dec 06, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Dear Taxpayer,The Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 and the attacks of September 11, 2011 will forever be etched in our collective memory and forever serve as painful reminders that the enemies of freedom aremany and our security often comes at a steep price—in dollars, lives and liberty.We no longer can assume our distant shores from foreign lands or having the greatest militaryforce in the history of the world are enough to protect us. We now live with the realityterrorists are within our midst and they may look, sound and act like us, but they hateeverything we are and the values we share.The balancing act between liberty and security has been tenuous throughout the history of ournation, founded upon basic freedoms granted by our Creator and protected from governmentinfringement within the Bill of Rights of our Constitution. But a new element has been added tothis equation over the past decade that threatens to undermine both our liberty and security—excessive government spending and insurmountable debt.We cannot secure liberty and guarantee security simply by spending more and more money inthe name of security. Every dollar misspent in the name of security weakens our alreadyprecarious economic condition, indebts us to foreign nations, and shackles the future of ourchildren and grandchildren. Our $16 trillion national debt has become the new red menace notonly lurking in our midst, but created and sustained by shortsighted and irresponsible decisionsmade in Washington.We can only defend our freedoms by ensuring the dollars we spend on security are done so in afiscally responsible manner, meet real needs, and respect the very rights we are aiming topreserve and protect.This report,
Safety at Any Price,
exposes misguided and wasteful spending in one of the largestterror-prevention grant programs at the Department of Homeland Security – the Urban AreaSecurity Initiative (UASI).
 We cannot assume that because the UASI program has an important mission and a large budgetit is accomplishing its goals, however. Significant evidence suggests that the program isstruggling to demonstrate how it is making U.S. cities less vulnerable to attack and moreprepared if one were to occur—despite receiving $7.1 billion in federal funding since 2003.After ten years, a clear danger for the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) grant program isthat it would be transformed from a risk-based program targeting security gaps into anentitlement program for states and cities.My office has conducted a year-long inquiry into the this grant program found that to wide of latitude is given to states and urban areas to determine the projects they will fund, and programparameters defining what constitute allowable expenses are extremely broad.
UASI is to provide funds for the nation’s cities most at risk of a major terror attack.
Congress and DHS failed to establish metrics to measure how funds spent through the UASIprogram have made us safer or determine the right amount to dedicate to counterterrorismprograms to mitigate the threat. While DHS recently established its first National PreparednessGoal, it has yet to develop a robust assessment of the nation’s current preparedness capabilitiesor defined performance metrics to assess the effectiveness of federal expenditures made to date.If in the days after 9/11 lawmakers were able to cast their gaze forward ten years, I imagine theywould be surprised to see how a counter-terrorism initiative aimed at protecting our largestcities has transformed into another parochial grant program. We would have been frustrated tolearn that limited federal resources were now subsidizing the purchase of low-priority items likean armored vehicles to protect festivals in rural New Hampshire, procure an underwater robotin Ohio and to pay for first responder attendance at a five-day spa junket that featured a displayof tactical prowess in the face of a “zombie apocalypse.”As we mark the tenth anniversary of the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, thetime has come for Congress to reconsider DHS’s mission and approach to counterterrorism. Wemust be honest with the American people that we cannot make every community around thecountry invulnerable to terrorist attacks by writing large checks from Washington, D.C. Notonly is this an unrealistic goal, but it also undermines the very purpose of our efforts. By lettingevery level of government – federal, State and local – do the things each does best, we can secureour cities and our freedoms. Confusing these roles, as we have done with UASI, leads to waste,inefficiency and a false sense of security.We must rededicate ourselves to ensuring that every dollar the federal government spends onterrorism prevention programs is spent wisely, yielding the largest improvement in security and best return on investment for your tax dollars. Facing a $16 trillion national debt, Congressneeds to have a conversation about what we can afford to spend on the Department of Homeland Security’s terrorism prevention programs and where to spend it.The American people recognize and understand the limits we face. They understand that weshould never sacrifice all of our freedoms in the name of security. We similarly cannot mortgageour children and grandchildren’s future by funding unnecessary and ineffective programs, evenincluding those that have important missions.Sincerely,Tom Coburn, M.D.U.S. Senator

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