May 7, 2009 | Commentary on Federal Budget, National Security and Defense

Homeland Security Grant Tail Wags State Spending Dog

What level of government really commits the most resources to protecting the American homeland? Heritage Foundation Visiting Fellow Matt Mayer looked at the numbers for 111 state and local jurisdictions in "An Analysis of Federal, State, and Local Homeland Security Budgets" and found that from 2000 to 2007 the vast majority of state and local homeland security funds came from state and local governments, not Washington, D.C.

Here is what he concluded: "Federal homeland security grants represent only a small portion of the yearly state and local spending on homeland security, ranging from a high of 17.7 percent in 2004 in North Carolina to a low of 0.1 percent in 2001 in Arizona. Even given its unenviable designation as the terrorists' top target, New York City's portion of federal homeland security funds never exceeded 5 percent from 2000 to 2007."

Despite this reality, the focus of Washington and the states remains on the yearly federal homeland security grants allocated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. With these federal funds come the strings of mandates, reporting requirements, and other useless bureaucratic red tape.

Mayer argues dependence on Washington is actually making us less safe. Another Heritage research paper, "Learning from Disasters: The Role of Federalism and the Importance of Grassroots Response," evaluates the dangers of overly "Washington-centric" approach to emergency preparedness and examines alternative models for improving the national capacity to respond to disasters.

Governors, mayors, and other state and local elected officials need to spend less time with their hands extended to Washington, D.C., and take back the mantle of leadership entrusted to them under the Constitution.

James Jay Carafano is Senior Research Fellow in national security policy at The Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. Vice President for the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, and the E. W. Richardson Fellow

First Appeared in Globalsecurity.org