It’s a drill that took place this past Halloween at the 2012 HALO Counter-Terrorism Summit. Fun, right? A way to bring a bit of levity to an otherwise highly serious conference?
Not so fast.
On December 5, 2012, Republican Senator Tom Coburn released a 55-page report titled “Safety at Any Price: Assessing the Impact of Homeland Security Spending in U.S. Cities.” In the report (found here), he cites that $35 billion dollars has been spent over the past decade on Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grant spending, specifically the terror-prevention grant program known as the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI).
In his press release, he tops the list with “Zombie Apocalypse Training” and says, “Paying for first responders to attend a HALO Counter-terrorism Summit at a California island spa resort featuring a simulated zombie apocalypse does little to discourage potential terrorists.”
OK, I’ll be the first to admit that, as a fiscal conservative, nothing grinds my gears more than wasteful government spending. But does this actually qualify? Is it me, or is $1,000 per first responder an unreasonable amount of money for a five-day counter-terrorism conference? (Seriously, my former employer paid $1,200 for me to attend a lousy three-day conference on graphic design held in Chicago.) The HALO Counter-Terrorism Summit included a large and comprehensive list of training courses, such as:
- Cartels – Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTP)
- Close Quarters Combat
- Cybercrime and Organized Crime
- DICE: Hospital Dynamic Internal Crises and Events (two-day course)
- Domestic Counter-Terrorism Insurgency Operations (COIN)
- Deploying the ER to the Field
- Extreme Close Quarters Conditioning (ECQC)
- Foreign Weapons Identification
- Home Invasion Kidnapping Enforcement (HIKE)
- Low-Light Tactical Operations
- Terrorism and Terrorist Organizations – Police, Military and Private Security Counter-Terrorism Complacency
- Think Like the Enemy: A Navy SEAL’s Guided Tour Through Your Adversary’s Mind
- Warrior Mindset and Practical Application
…to name a few. Plus, the summit featured such notable speakers as Cindy McCain, wife of U.S. Senator John McCain, Congressman Trent Franks, General Michael Hayden (former CIA Director and Former Director of the National Security Agency) and other impressive names. That’s quite of bit of bang for the buck (with a few shreds of undead flesh on the side).
So maybe the conference gets a pass, despite the zombies. But wait – turns out even the zombies were not paid for with tax dollars, but were instead fully covered by conference sponsor Strategic Operations. (Darn it – I was almost hoping my tax dollars were going to support zombies.)
But how about Ohio’s underwater robot? I learned about it here. Not so egregious as it first sounded, particularly considering Pickaway County is only 120 miles or so from Lake Erie (so it’s not exactly in the desert).
But there definitely ARE questionable grant expenditures that should have gone through at least a little bit of oversight. And who should be doing that oversight?
Senator Coburn is actually a member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. If you go to their Website, you’ll learn that “The Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs is the chief oversight committee of the U.S. Senate. Formerly known as the Committee on Governmental Affairs, it took on primary oversight responsibility for the Department of Homeland Security in 2003.” (Did I read that right? Oversight responsibility for the DHS?) Senator Coburn is also the ranking minority member of the committee’s oldest subcommittee, the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI).
So Senator Coburn is in a better position than most anyone to inform us of wasteful spending in the DHS. (One wonders if he wasn’t also in the perfect position to help prevent that wasteful spending in the first place.)
To his credit, he DOES take a share of the blame, or rather, he and his fellow members of Congress. In his report, he states, “Any blame for problems in the UASI program, however, also falls on Congress, which is often more preoccupied with the amount of money sent to its cities than with how the money is spent, or whether it was ever needed in the first place.”
On a final note, last year I read an article on the FOX News site titled “Homeland Security Department Overwhelmed by Congressional Oversight complaining about how there was too much DHS congressional oversight.
Oy vey. At any rate, I’m just glad I got to write an article that had zombies in it – thanks, Senator Coburn.