Since 9-11, the federal government has distributed tens-of-billions of dollars in homeland security grants to state and local governments. According to the Congressional Research Service, in FY 2009 Congress appropriated $4.36 billions for these grants. According to the Government Accountability Office, the Department of Homeland Security "has adopted a process of continuing improvement in its methods for assessing risk and measuring grant applicants' effective use of resources." Yet, little authoritative research has actually attempted to evaluate the impact of grants on improving national preparedness; the cost-effectiveness of grants; or their impact on governance in areas concerning public safety and disaster response.
The Heritage Foundation's Visiting Research fellow Matt Mayer wrote a first of its kind report on homeland security spending. The report, "An Analysis of Federal, State, and Local Homeland Security Budgets" details the federal, state, and local spending from 2000 to 2007 in 26 states, the District of Columbia, and 85 cities and counties that make up Urban Areas Security Initiative jurisdictions. In total, 111 jurisdictions were surveyed.
Among the key findings of the report are:
• From 2000 to 2007 the combined budgets for law enforcement and the fire service increased by an average of 3 percent to 6 percent per year. Texas (8.3 percent), Arizona (8 percent), California (8 per¬cent), and Florida (8 percent) led the way with the largest average increases. In Georgia, Illinois, and New York, the budgets grew by less than 1 percent. In Louisiana, the average state and local budget actually decreased by 2.8 percent.
• While in many cases the budgets for emergency management agencies increased by sizable percentages, the amount appropriated from general fund dollars in real dollars was low, especially when com¬pared to police, sheriff, and fire appropriations. Specifically, in the 31 jurisdictions where specific appropriations for only emergency management agencies could be determined, 21 (68 percent) appropriated less than $1,000,000 in most years.
• States and localities spend far more every year then the federal government. Federal dollars have a marginal impact on improving state and local readiness.
No doubt, the current recession and the declines in state and local budgets will put enormous pressures on public safety spending at the state and local levels, as well as increased call for more federal funding. The report, however, questions the efficiency of widely distributing homeland security grants among many states and jurisdictions as well efficacy of employing grants as the federal government's principal tool for improving the national preparedness.
In a separate report, The Heritage Foundation and the Center for Strategic and International Studies examined alternative means for elevating the overall readiness of the national homeland security enterprise.