For three days in Howard County, Md., last year, 29 veterinarians honed their homeland-security skills by practicing the rescue of a llama and a horse. Money to pay for this “large-animal rescue” drill came from federal homeland security grants to the state. It cost taxpayers $17,234, including airfare, meals and lodging for many of the visiting veterinarians and an honorarium for the animals’ performance. A Baltimore Sun review of nearly 10,000 pages of state homeland security documents shows that most of the new federal terrorism preparedness money managed by the Maryland Emergency Management Agency–$161 million has been allotted since 2002–is being directed toward the critical needs of first responders.
But records and interviews also show that Maryland is so flush with anti-terrorism grant funds and spending authority is so broad that the state has struggled, at times, to manage the money. In some cases spending appears to stretch the definition of homeland security. The new money flowing from the federal government has increased MEMA’s annual grant responsibilities 20-fold, from about $2.8 million before 9/11 to $60 million in 2004. The bulk of the funds have gone to outfitting emergency crews. But as early as 2003, MEMA became overwhelmed by the volume of purchases and stopped keeping itemized spreadsheets of spending by the state’s 27 jurisdictions. No federal audits have been conducted on Maryland’s books.