Following 9/11, Congress authorized creation of the Department of Homeland Security. And over the past decade, we’ve heard periodically that the state or local agencies have gotten new, upgraded equipment or funded special initiatives with Homeland Security money. So for the 10th anniversary of 9/11, NHPR’s Jon Greenberg looked into exactly how much money has flowed into New Hampshire. The answer is: A lot.
“To date, the department has spent about 250 million dollars in the Granite State.
The Homeland Security mandate is so broad, most of those dollars have little immediate connection to terrorism. We downloaded data from the government web site, spending.gov. By the time you add up things like aid to local fire departments and disaster relief, you’ve accounted for nearly two thirds of the money – about 150 million dollars.
There are some evocative nuggets, like more than 7 million dollars to Exeter-based gun maker, Sig Sauer. And some tiny items, like 64,000 dollars for cameras and door locks at the Portsmouth Bus terminal.”
Greenberg notes that the state’s Emergency Operations Center, or ” the state’s equivalent of NASA’s Mission Control,” was built with Homeland Security money. During a natural disaster, like Tropical Storm Irene, up to 70 people from the National Guard, Red Cross, and state emergency personnel can pile in and get the information they need.
Additionally, he points out that $26 million in federal funding went to replacing every radio in every police car, ambulance, and fire truck in New Hampshire. And Dartmouth got another $17 million for cyber security development.
Meanwhile, another NHPR reporter, Chris Jensen, examined the Border Patrol angle. His piece begins with what the northern Border Patrol looked like before 9/11. About 100 agents were responsible for patrolling 300 miles of the Swanton Sector, stretching between New Hampshire, Vermont, and a chunk of New York. And now?
“The Border Patrol became part of Homeland Security and over a decade its budget increased from about $1 billion to about $3.6 billion a year. 2,300 agents now man the northern border.”
Then there’s the technology. Jensen quotes Mark Henry, who was Deputy Chief of the Swanton Sector on 9/11.
“‘…we had very limited access to air resources, we didn’t have the sensors and camera array on the border we had, we didn’t have the boats, we didn’t have the ATVs, we didn’t have the snow machines. We didn’t have anywhere near the assets at that time that we do today…
…’The agents have been able to increase their range and their view of the border through technology, through the use of sensors and cameras.’”
But the effectiveness of enhancing security along the northern border has faced criticism,
“Despite the improvements the operation along 4,000-mile Canadian border has still been routinely criticized by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.
In a 2007 report GAO investigators said they crossed the border several times carrying a red duffel bag to simulate radioactive materials but they were never caught.
Last year, the GAO questioned the cost, value and progress of Homeland Security’s multi-billion dollar plan for a high-tech surveillance network along the Mexican and Canadian borders.
In its latest report – last December - the GAO noted some progress in securing the northern border.”
So while Homeland Security money has certainly been a boon to local first responders, its effectiveness in the realm it was intended for–anti-terrorism–remains an open question. At least in New Hampshire.