We're not safe, but at least we're broke!

Veronique de Rugy has a new paper out on homeland security spending. Since 2000, homeland security spending has increased from about $13 billion to over $65 billion. That means we're much more secure, right? Not so fast.

DHS directs only $35 billion of its $50.5 billion FY2009 budget toward homeland security-related activities. The remaining $15.5 billion finances non-home-land security activities, such as the Coast Guard’s rescues of foundering yachters and Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program.

This allocation of money results from how legislators transferred powers to the newly created DHS Congress incorporated some items not related to homeland security into DHS, possibly because these programs would be less likely targets for cuts if they were part of DHS. Congress also left many homeland security items out of DHS’s jurisdic-
tion . . .

Splitting the homeland security money between so many departments and programs decreases the ability of DHS and Congress to conduct effective oversight. Congress’s failure to consolidate oversight of the DHS into one committee might be the single greatest obstacle to creating an efficient and effective department. When Congress incorporated several agencies into DHS at its formation, committee chairs refused to relinquish their jurisdictions over the 22 agencies and activities transferred to DHS and have blocked attempts to reform the system by consolidating oversight powers into one committee.5

Not only is this failure to consolidate oversight inefficient and ineffective, but it is also extremely time consuming.

Last year alone the leaders of DHS:

appeared before 86 committees and subcommittees of Congress;
• participated in 206 Congressional hearings;
• attended 2,242 briefings for members of Congress;
• wrote 460 legislatively mandated reports;
• answered 2,630 questions for the record submitted by Congress members after hearings;
• responded to at least 6,500 letters from members; and
• provided 268 departmental witnesses for testimony.

Perhaps I am too jaded by excess air travel, but most of our homeland security seems designed to

A) Increase the power of congressmen and agency heads or
B) Put on a show for the yokels

rather than

C) Make us safer

Homeland security is the conservative version of the national healthcare plans I keep reading. Sure, in theory this new agency is going to make us all safer. But the plans all seem to rely on the interest group politics, bureaucratic dysfunction, and congressional power games that have produced the immense problems in our current system somehow magically disappearing. Instead, the thing gets more expensive, and less efficient. Perhaps the theory is that if they waste enough money, we won't have anything left worth destroying.