Since its inception DHS has provided over $3billion of grant funding to secure the nation’s infrastructure and transportation systems. The vast majority of this funding has been provided to state and local governments for first responders, technologies to improve law enforcement capabilities, secure transportation systems, implement buffer zone protection plans, and to enable state and local governments to secure our nation.
However, after all the billions of dollars invested so far, how are we doing? The real questions are; how well was the money spent and how would we know? We have no real metrics to determine how the state and local governments are using the money to reduce our nation’s vulnerabilities. DHS generally sets standards, provides grant guidance and attempts to prioritize spending based on risk based lists for cities and other inputs. Every year around grant time there is a common refrain – “we need more money to secure our cities, transportation systems, and infrastructure – on top of the money we received last year, and the year before that and the year before that”. But how was the previous year’s money spent and what did that do to reduce vulnerabilities locally and nationally? The answer is subjective and elusive – because there are no real measurements applied to determine if the money is truly contributing to our nation’s security. While undoubtedly the money is used for improving local capabilities –given the range of items and services procured at the local level — there is no way to calculate that the funds expended add up to any strategic sense of infrastructure security.
Let’s hope the incoming administration can help quantify infrastructure protection efforts across the nation so we will eventually know not only how the billions are being spent, but also if we are getting value for our tax dollars and if that investment is contributing to our nation’s security in a comprehensive manner.