The Washington Times reports this week on spending under a loophole in the "Faster and Smarter Funding for First Responders Act," passed last year in the House of Representatives by a vote of 409-10. The poorly-acronymed FASFFFRA was a real breakthrough, as it requires most first-responder grants to be evaluated and prioritized based on the relative risk of a terror attack. So, it only took four years to pass legislation linking the money appropriated as a result of a previous terror attack to the relative risk of a future terror attack. Nice job, Congress.
But wait -- at least one grant program relating to fire departments was exempted from even this legislation, and as the Times reports, at least $25 million has been doled out under that program, without those kinds of priorities. For example, two local fire departments have received a total of $77,000 to fund "puppet and clown shows," and one in Oregon got $22,000 for an educational robot. Other departments are using money for nutritional counseling and teaching firefighters "how to become fitness trainers." And somehow, an organization that provides "breast-cancer screening for low-income Haitian immigrants" got $40,000. Now, I'm not opposed to such a program, generally speaking; I'm just not sure it quite fits with the particular mission statement.
The director of the Assistance to Firefighters grant program says that Congress does require at least five percent of any such grant to be spent on fire protection funding. So that's nice.
But, despite that strict requirement, the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste is still not satisfied. "[I]t's clear a lot of this money could hve been spent more effectively," said Tom Schatz, president of CAGW. "Puppet and clown shows? . . . People in New York and other major cities will not find this funny at all." I'm not sure about that last part.
Link: Washington Times