When zombies attack, the Department of Homeland Security will be prepared. That was one of the few pieces of good news in Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn's new report "Safety at Any Price: Assessing the Impact of Homeland Security Spending in U.S. Cities."
The report found there has been lax oversight of the $35 billion in grants that the DHS has given to state and local governments since 2003. Coburn alleges that much of the money went to "low-priority and low-risk areas" and has done little to help Americans prepare for a terrorist attack.
For example, money from the DHS's Urban Areas Security Initiative went to buy snow cone machines in Michigan. Places like Fargo, N.D., and Keene, N.H., now have armored vehicles at their disposal, as do many other small towns. Keene said the vehicle was needed to protect its annual Pumpkin Festival.
Arizona used $90,000 in DHS funding to install a video monitoring system at the Peoria Sports Complex, because apparently it is in the taxpayers' interest to monitor the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres during spring training.
More legitimate (but still questionable) expenses were handled badly, as well. Illinois lawmakers burned through $45.6 million in DHS grants to install security cameras in Chicago and Cook County before they abandoned the project without the cameras ever working.
But if you think that's waste, you need to know about the extraordinary training that the DHS was able to provide to first responders this year. They made attendance at the HALO Corp.'s 2012 Counter-Terrorism Summit an allowable expense for federal grant money. Yes, the California-based security company's five-day event was held at a posh island resort and spa just outside of San Diego and cost $1,000 per person to attend, but that's not even the best part. The showpiece event of the summit made was a live war game of a zombie apocalypse, complete with 40 actors in full zombie makeup as well as "state-of-the-art structure, pyrotechnic battlefield effects, medical special effects, vehicles and blank-firing weapons" according to a promotional video by HALO President Brad Barker.
This enabled first responders to participate in a real-life "Dawn of the Dead" scenario and to know precisely what to do when their neighbors start trying to eat their human flesh. A video of the event, posted above, shows first responders skillfully gunning down the faux zombies with their blank-filled guns. In fact, they held two zombie war games on Halloween.
"This is a very real exercise," Barker insisted. "This is not some type of big costume party."
To those readers who think that federal homeland security tax dollars could have been better spent, check back with us when zombies are gnawing on your ankles.