Since the terrorist strikes on America, $215 million federal dollars have been spread across Dallas and six surrounding counties in the interest of homeland security, says the Dallas Morning News. The aid has helped secure potential targets, supported volunteer groups and expanded health departments, while providing $81 million to train and equip those who would respond to another attack. Officials say police, firefighters, and emergency managers are better prepared for disaster. First responders have more trucks and trailers, radios and laptop computers, hazmat suits, and bomb robots. State officials aren’t certain recipients know how to properly use the equipment. Everyone in the field can’t communicate with one another – a problem officials say they are addressing.
Some praise the new taxpayer-funded largesse as vital for public safety and as a deal for local governments; others criticize the equipment grant programs as flawed and wasteful. Abuses have been reported across the nation, while a state audit found funding problems in Texas and brought new oversight. Responder grants are funneled through states to local governments that have been relatively free to buy any products included on a federally approved list. Critics say lax oversight has led to abuses: Air conditioners for garbage trucks in Newark, N.J. Leather jackets for Washington, D.C., police, and a Dale Carnegie self-improvement course for that city’s sanitation workers.