Criticism continues of Congressional formula for state terror funds disbursement

Published 21 September 2006

If a camel is a horse designed by committee, than the grants DHS gives states for terror preparedness are more a camel than a horse; the reason: The formula for allocating these grants was designed by a committee — a Congressional committee, that is

We have written in the past about the peculiarities — peculiarities from a the common sense angle, not from a political perspective — of the formula according to which homeland security grants are distributed. A portion of the DHS budget is aimed to bolster state terrorism preparedness, and a formula codi­fied in the Patriot Act distributes 0.75 percent of this state terrorism preparedness to the fifty states, regardless of risk or need. This formula, combined with slightly smaller allocations for U.S. territories, adds up to approximately 40 percent of the funding for first responder grants. DHS then allocates the remaining 60 percent of the funding based solely on size of population. These formula-based grants account for 11 percent of DHS’s total budget, with the department providing $3.6 billion in assistance to state and local first responders in 2006.

The grant formula has created strange situations. In 2004 California received only 7.95 per­cent of general grant monies, even though the state accounts for 12 percent of the U.S. population. Wyoming, which received 0.85 per­cent, accounts for only 0.17 percent of the pop­ulation. This gap translates into DHS grants of $5.03 per capita in California and $37.94 per capita in Wyoming.

The odd effect is in evidence within states as well. Rural, less-populated areas often receive a disproportionate share of the grants. For example, in Iowa, the capital city of Des Moines, with a population of 199,000, received $250,000, while Sioux County, with a population of 31,600, received $299,000.

-read more about how to make DHS funds more effective in securing the United States in James Jay Carafano’s and Jamie Metzl’s Heritage Foundation backgrounder