Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

June 5, 2006

Homeland security grants: more GIGO

Filed under: Risk Assessment,State and Local HLS — by Christian Beckner on June 5, 2006

CQ Homeland Security (subscription only) provides two more examples of the “garbage-in, garbage out” phenomenon for the homeland security grant allocation process:

By the department’s account, there are zero military bases in the Las Vegas region. But Nellis Air Force base is within the 10-mile buffer zone the department considers the Las Vegas region. In addition, the Hoover Dam is 30 miles outside Las Vegas city limits, but the department does not include it as a critical asset in its assessment of the Las Vegas region. However, if something happens at the Hoover Dam, the Nevada Highway Patrol and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department will be the agencies to respond, said Nevada’s homeland security adviser Giles Vanderhoof. “It may not be within the 10 miles, but guess who is going to have to respond if something is going on there,” he said. The department Friday would not respond to requests for explanations.

In the department’s assessment of San Diego’s geographic risks, it says the city has more than 500,000 border crossers a year. However, that number is slightly off, said the city’s Homeland Security Director Jill Olen — there are more than 500,000 border crossers a month — 62 million a year, Olen said. The San Ysidro border crossing happens to be the busiest in the nation, she said.

Both Las Vegas and San Diego were dropped from the department’s urban area funding list for 2006 and were only eligible to receive “sustainment” funds. But both Nevada’s Vanderhoof and San Diego’s Olen say they expect the department to reconsider their status in 2007 now that DHS has accurate information.

These anecdotes add to the impression that there are serious flaws in the analytical process for homeland security grants – which creates a need for both better data and greater subjectivity (although not politically-influenced subjectivity – which is admittedly difficult) in the decision-making process.

Update (6/5): Here are links to the full DHS grant explanations for New York City, Washington, DC, Las Vegas, and San Diego.

Update (6/5): Here’s a link to the scorecard for the SF Bay Area.

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Comment by Leo

June 5, 2006 @ 12:40 pm

Those numbers don’t add up. More than 62 million a year would mean more than 5 million per month. should it be 6.2 million a year?

Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » Blog Archive » Chertoff ♥ NY

June 7, 2006 @ 2:46 am

[…] All these talking points are factually correct – but they’re also largely beside the point. I’ve expressed concern about the decisions that DHS made primarily based on three complaints: (1) material problems with data quality, (2) the need for subjectivity when you’re talking about NYC and DC, given the extent to which they are vastly more at risk than any other American cities; and (3) the way in which the DHS explanation for NYC belittles the world-class capabilities of the NYPD. As Brookings scholar Michael O’Hanlon noted in the WSJ over the weekend, “rather than blame New York for a purportedly poor grant application, as some DHS officials have done this week, we should be praising the city for progress in homeland security efforts to date — and asking other cities to emulate the Big Apple.” […]

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