Entries in Homeland Security (7)


New Report: Zombies Partly to Blame for Government Waste?

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- When it comes to the dilemma of government spending, a zombie apocalypse hasn’t been a part of the discussion – until now.

In his latest report on government waste, “Safety at Any Price,” Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., argued that Homeland Security funds allocated after 9/11 to shore up the U.S. anti-terrorism defense are being misused.  He pointed to a five-day counter-terrorism summit that included a “zombie apocalypse” demonstration.

According to Coburn’s report, the HALO 2012 Counterterrorism Summit was attended by law enforcement officials from around the country who were allowed to use DHS-awarded grant funds to pay the $1,000 entry fee.

Organizers of the conference at Paradise Point Resort & Spa outside San Diego say the skit was solely to add levity to an otherwise serious meeting on protecting the homeland. Proponents within the federal government have touted the “zombie apocalypse” campaign as an attention-grabbing way to get people to focus on being prepared for real-world disasters.

Coburn on the other hand, said it is just one more example of an estimated $7 billion in questionable homeland spending every year.

“That is $7 billion that your kids and my kids are going to pay back is something that we got no increased security for,” Coburn said.  "I don’t care if you use zombie apocalypse, what is the metric that said this was an effective use of the money.”

Coburn’s report is the result of a year-long probe by his office into one of the largest terror-prevention grant programs at the DHS – the Urban Area Security Initiative.  While the program’s original intention was to make U.S. cities less vulnerable to terrorist attacks, Coburn cites example after example of what he said are questionable uses of federal tax dollars.

There’s the $30,000 underwater robot that was purchased by the city of Columbus, Ohio, for bridge and train overpass inspection as well as search and rescue; the $69,000 hovercraft for Indianapolis; and the $2,700 teleprompter purchased by officials in Ascension Parish, La., to meet “the national priority to expand regional collaboration.”

No matter the price tag, the report questions whether federal funds intended to deter terrorism are being put to optimum use.

The sleepy town of Keene, N.H., for example, obtained a military grade BearCat armored vehicle early this year with DHS grant funds, citing the need to secure its annual pumpkin festival. Price tag: $285,933. The town has had only two murders in the past 15 years.

And while Fargo, N.D., also boasts one of the lowest crime rates in the country, it received more than $8 million in Homeland Security grants and used $256,643 of them to buy its own armored truck.

Small towns across America – like Keene, Fargo, Syracuse, Manchester and Clovis – are now prime targets for the manufacturer of the BearCat, Lenco, which now includes an eight-page guide on grant writing on its website.

The Department of Homeland Security declined an interview with ABC News, but wrote in a statement that it “fundamentally disagrees with the report’s position on the value of homeland security grants” that “make our communities safer places to live.”

But Coburn said there’s too much waste. He says it’s “all over the government, everywhere you look – waste, incompetence, and stupidity.”

But then again, can you ever be too prepared for the zombie apocalypse?


Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


White House Unveils New Strategy to Fight Homegrown Terrorism

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The White House Thursday unveiled a new strategy to battle homegrown terrorism by fostering coordination between local authorities and teaching officials to better recognize violent extremism.

“Protecting our nation’s communities from violent extremist recruitment and radicalization is a top national security priority. It is an effort that requires creativity, diligence and commitment to our fundamental rights and principles,” read a report entitled, “Strategic Implementation Plan for Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States.”

The plan outlined enhanced coordination between local partners -- including schools and community groups -- and federal law enforcement, and sought to empower communities by teaching local officials to recognize violent extremism.

“Just as we engage and raise awareness to prevent gang violence, sexual offenses, school shootings and other acts of violence, so too must we ensure that our communities are empowered to recognize threats of violent extremism and understand the range of government and nongovernment resources that can help keep their families, friends and neighbors safe,” the report said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


In Charleston, Romney Vows to Keep America Safe

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images(CHARLESTON, S.C.) -- Aboard the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier in Charleston Harbor Thursday, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney stood flanked by retired World War II aircrafts as he promised a group of veterans that he will strengthen the country’s military and work to ensure the safety of the nation if elected president.

“I want to make sure we do not shrink the military budget,” said Romney. “We all recognize America needs to economize but I don’t believe we can economize on securing our nation and protecting our citizens and assuring our work remains safe and free for us, for our children and theirs."

“And I’ll protect the United States of America by protecting a strong military,” he said.

Romney spoke Thursday on the 888-foot hangar adorned with World War II memorabilia that he toured prior to his address. The doors of the hangar remained open during his speech, revealing views of Charleston and dolphins playing in the water below.

Ahead of Friday’s foreign policy speech Romney is scheduled to deliver at The Citadel in South Carolina, Romney previewed some of the specific steps he would take if elected to improve the strength of the U.S. military.

“We’re going to have to increase our investment in our Navy,” Romney said, as the crowd of 50 veterans cheered. “Secondly, our Air Force. The Air Force is smaller and older in terms of the average age of the equipment than it’s been since 1947 when the Air Force was put into place. That simply can’t be allowed.”

Romney said he’d also like to add 100,000 active duty personnel to eliminate the high-rotation schedule many of the active troops are on, and said he wants to make sure veterans are treated “the way veterans deserve to be treated.”

He also spoke briefly about how the threats around the world make it that much more important for our military to remain strong.

Referring to Pakistan as a “very fragile nation,” Romney said the country’s nuclear weapons, if obtained by the wrong hands, “could change the world.”

Shaking hands with veterans after his speech, Romney was approached by one man who said he hopes the former governor will bring the respect back to the country’s military.

"We need a Ronald Reagan," said the veteran. “I’m not comparing you to him…but we need to bring the respect back to the country.”

“He was a great man, what a great leader Ronald Reagan was; I sure love that guy,” Romney responded.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama: Country Is Safer than It Was 10 Years Ago

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(NEW YORK) -- Reflecting on the 9/11 anniversary, President Obama told NBC News Sunday morning that there is no doubt the United States is safer now that it was 10 years ago.

The president said this is a consequence of more effective homeland security and the U.S. taking the fight to al Qaeda.

Obama warned that Americans must remain vigilant because there are still people who want to attack the U.S.  He also discussed the specific and credible -- but unconfirmed -- terror threat surrounding the 9/11 anniversary, saying this particular threat was so specific that he felt it necessary to inform state and local partners to prepare.

On Saturday, the president visited the graves of U.S. service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  NBC’s Brian Williams asked the president what he took away from the trip.

“It’s a reminder that our way of life is dependent on the incredible courage, the incredible patriotism of a whole host of people,” Obama said.

Obama added that he was struck by how young all the fallen heroes were.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Napolitano Won't Seek Arizona Senate Seat

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Friday she will not leave the Obama administration to run for Senate in Arizona in 2012. Her name had been tossed into the ring by supporters who thought she could be a strong candidate to replace retiring GOP Sen. Jon Kyl.

Earlier this week Republican Congressman Jeff Flake announced his bid for the seat. Flake already has the endorsement of the Club for Growth and the Tea Party-affiliated organization, Freedom Works.

But speculation is brewing that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who is still recovering from her injuries after last month’s shooting in Tucson, might run for the seat. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., recently said there is a "distinct possibility" Giffords will run, but it's far from certain.

Statement from Napolitano's office:

“Secretary Napolitano told senior Democratic Party leaders earlier this week that she will not seek Arizona’s open U.S. Senate seat in 2012. She cares deeply about Arizona, but the Secretary intends to continue doing the job that the President asked her to do – protecting the American people from terrorism and other threats to our country. She's focused on continuing to strengthen our counter-terrorism initiatives, border security, immigration enforcement, transportation and cyber security, and disaster preparedness."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Obama Briefed on Counterterrorism Efforts, Egypt Accident

File photo. Photo Courtesy - Pete Souza/The White House(KAILUA, Hawaii) -- President Obama attended to some presidential duties Sunday before enjoying his fourth day of vacation.

The president received a briefing on the “ongoing counter-terrorism efforts” from National Security Staff Senior Director for Counterterrorism Nick Rasmussen and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes. This was after President Obama's adviser on counterterrorism and homeland security, John Brennan, convened another inter-agency coordination call with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, National Counterterrorism Center Director Michael Leiter, national security staff traveling with the president in Hawaii, and other representatives from the FBI, CIA and the counterterrorism community. It was the second of such calls since the president has been on the island.

“During the call, they reviewed our continued efforts to stay vigilant throughout the holiday season, and to coordinate with our foreign partners,” the White House said.

In addition, the White House said the president was briefed on the “tragic traffic accident,” that took the lives of a number of American citizens in Egypt this weekend and “the U.S. government’s ongoing efforts to support the victims and their families.”

Obama also had a phone conversation with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who is recovering from back surgery in New York.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


White House Convenes 'Inter-Agency' Call on Holiday Threats

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The White House convened an inter-agency conference call Friday to review the steps taken to respond to holiday threats this season. It was one year ago that Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to explode a powdery substance aboard a Northwest flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

The president was not on the coordination call Friday, led by counterterrorism and homeland security adviser John Brennan.  On the call was Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano, Director of National Intelligence Clapper, FBI Director Mueller, NCTC Director Leiter, Deputy Director of the CIA Morrell, National Security Staff traveling with the President in Hawaii, in addition to other representatives from the counterterrorism community.

In a briefing at the White House before the president departed for his Hawaiian holiday, the administration said that they do not see a specific and credible threat this holiday season.

“As far as something specific and credible, we don't see that,” Brennan said Wednesday. “There is a constant stream of reporting throughout the course of the year about al Qaeda's plans.  So sometimes we have that strategic warning.  We're not going to wait for a tactical warning.  We're going to be poised every day to respond.”

Brennan said he is “absolutely confident” that the “deficiencies” that were identified in the system after the after-action review of the Abdulmutallab incident have been addressed.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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