The Economics and Cost of Safety and Security for the United States in a Post-9/11 World: Waste, Expense, and Lack of Oversight

Article excerpt

Introduction

As we approach record-breaking deficits, one of the challenges the government faces is how to spend American tax revenue. There are many budgetary priorities, with safety and security being main priorities in the American public's eyes. However, the reality is that given the slow growth of the American economy, expenditure of any kind must be carefully scrutinized. The essential issue to be considered is: given the budget deficit and lack of resources, waste and inefficiency at Homeland Security has become a pervasive problem that can only be cured by brief analysis of how spending is taking place, discussing some examples of waste, but more importantly, providing some analysis of ways to change the present situation. It is hoped by bringing attention to this topic and providing some possible solutions that a dialogue about this topic can be created which will enable the balance between safety and financial reality and efficiency to be maintained.

How Much Are We Spending?

In the current fiscal year, the Department of Homeland Security was allotted 57 Billion Dollars. (1) As an example, the Transportation Security Administration, one of the agencies within the Department of Homeland Security, is spending 14% (2) of that fiscal authorization. In looking at the FY 2012 appropriation, within that 57 Billion dollar figure, there is a State Grant program that had an allocation of 7% of the budget, or 3.99 billion dollars (3). This State Grant program authorizes states to apply for Homeland Security program funds. The definition has been broadened to allow for more contingencies to fall under those which would qualify as security issues. This will be addressed later as a major area necessary for reform.

These expenditures become a larger and more urgent issue when one examines the current overall United States Federal Budget deficit situation and its impact on the economy. The deficit for fiscal year 2012 is projected to be 1.2 trillion dollars . This is $93 Billion dollars larger than the deficit projected in January. (4) The cumulative deficit for the United States is now more than 15.7 trillion dollars. (5) Given that the nation's deficit is at an all-time high, it becomes even more of a priority to make sure that spending on the nation's security and transportation sectors is done in an efficient and cost effective manner.

Examples of Waste

In the U.S. House of Representatives report, released on May 9, 2012, an investigation was cited involving the procurement and storage of equipment by the Transportation Security Administration. At the Dallas Logistics Center in February of 2012, Congressional Committee Staff found 5,700 pieces of equipment valued at $184 million. 6 This equipment sat unused and had not been distributed for a period of six months. The agency had paid $3.5 million to lease the warehouse space, yet apparently nobody knew according to the above report where this equipment had been. (7)

When evaluating resources, the issue of personnel and administration must also be assessed. Since 2001, there has been a 400% increase in the amount of employees at the Transportation Security Administration, yet passenger flights only increased 12% during that same period of time. (8) With the percentage of air travel noted, it is interesting that the agency's staff needs have increased by such a large amount during this period. (9) As well, with more than 65,000 employees, the TSA is larger than the Departments of Labor, Energy, Education, Housing and Urban Development, and State combined. Since 2002, the TSA has procured six contracts to hire and train more than 137,000 staff at a cost of $2.4 billion dollars. (10) It is interesting to note that because of low average salary for entry-level employees, there has been a tremendous amount of turnover at the agency. This too, becomes a waste issue because of an inability to retain and attract highly qualified personnel who want to stay in their positions. …