DHS doles state grants

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The Homeland Security Department has awarded more than $2.2 billion in grants through three programs for first responders, law enforcement agencies and citizens involved in counterterrorism efforts.

The State Homeland Security Grant Program will distribute almost $1.7 billion to first responders in states, communities and U.S. territories through DHS' Office for Domestic Preparedness. The funds are designed to pay for planning, training, exercises and equipment for first responders, such as police and fire, emergency medical and management workers.

States are required to distribute 80 percent of their awarded funds to localities.

About $500 million, given through the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program, is meant to help law enforcement agencies enhance their information-sharing capabilities for detecting, deterring, disrupting and preventing potential terrorist attacks, with a specific focus on stopping incidents involving weapons of mass destruction.

Funds can also be used to reduce vulnerabilities of high-value targets, enhance interoperable communications, and help with management and administration.

They also pay for overtime costs related to homeland security.

Rep. Jim Turner (D-Texas) welcomed such funding but said the formula used to distribute money needs to be changed.

The announcement "shows that the government needs to stop using arbitrary formulas that distribute dollars without rhyme or reason," he said in a statement. "Thirty-eight dollars per capita spending in Wyoming and only $5 per capita in Texas and California do not reflect the threats and vulnerabilities facing those states."

Reforming the federal grant system has been a goal for many lawmakers and state and local representatives who have said the system is fragmented, tedious and slow.

In testimony to a Senate subcommittee in September, Paul Posner, the General Accounting Office's managing director of federal budget issues and intergovernmental relations, said that the bottom line is: What impact will the grant system have in protecting the nation against terrorism?

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