June 29, 2005 | WebMemo on Department of Homeland Security

Risk-Based Homeland Security Measure Shows Promise

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and John Cornyn (R-TX) recently introduced the "Homeland Security FORWARD Funding Act of 2005" (S.1013). The bill requires that homeland security grants to the states be allocated based primarily on risk. As Congress struggles with finding the right bill to keep homeland security grants from becoming "pork-barrel legislation," which the 9/11 Commission warned against, the Feinstein/Cornyn proposal offers solid ideas on how to ensure that federal dollars are actually used to make Americans safer.

 

Funding Flawed From the Start

Since Congress and the Administration started dumping money on the states after 9/11, a significant portion has been allocated based on states' population. This approach sends a disproportionate amount of money to rural states and territories. At a minimum, each state is assured of receiving 0.75 percent of major grant money, which adds up to about 37 percent of the funds available.

 

The post-9/11 effort rush to build up the capacity of state and local governments to respond to terror was understandable, but this approach is not sustainable and will not build the national system of integrated federal, state, and local capabilities we need to protect the nation over the long term.

 

In response, President George W. Bush signed Homeland Security PresidentialDirective 8 (HSPD-8), which requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to establish national performance standards, measure readiness, and allocate funds based on national priorities. While DHS has diligently pursued implementation of HSPD-8, the directive lacks the authority of law. Congress has been unable to settle on the right legislative mandate to support implementation of the directive.

 

A Promising Prospect

The Feinstein/Cornyn "Homeland Security FORWARD Funding Act of 2005" is a step in the right direction. It would require DHS to distribute state grants according to risk assessments. The bill defines risk using three factors: threat, vulnerability, and consequence. Additionally, the bill reduces the state minimum funding levels to 0.25 percent-calculated as a proportion of the State Homeland Security Grant Program, rather than of all grants. In other words, the state minimum is allocated from a specific grant, and the rest of the grants will be distributed based on risk. The result is that DHS will be able to target funds where they will best serve to help build a national homeland security system that will better protect us all.

 

Under S. 1013, for a state to receive money it must also demonstrate that it has certain essential capabilities and have a plan to use the money that details prioritized threats, resource allocation, and emergency preparedness. When a state does receive money, the bill requires that it go towards the state's plan.

 

The House has already acted on a similar measure.The House recently passed the "Faster and Smarter Funding for First Responder Act of 2005"which (H.R. 1544)( (H.R. 1544). That bill would accomplish many of the same goals as S.1013.

 

Getting a bill to conference that reflects the imperatives outlined in S.103 and H.R. 1544 should be a priority for Congress. American security and the efficient use of taxpayers' dollars would both benefit.

 

James Jay Carafano, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow for National Security and Homeland Security in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation. Diem Nguyen contributed to this Webmemo.

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