The Department of Homeland Security should pay closer attention to how cities are spending federal dollars earmarked for an anti-nuclear-terrorism program, the Government Accountability Office said Monday.
The DHS Securing the Cities program began in 2006 and helps municipalities develop plans to prevent and respond to acts of radiological terror, including deployment of the radiological dispersal devices sometimes called dirty bombs. Cities can use program funds to buy radiation detection equipment and train local officials to use it.
Five cities spent a total of about $145 million since the inception of Securing the Cities 12 years ago, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in its new report.
In the report, Congress’ investigative arm recommended that DHS’ new Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office “regularly [collect] detailed information from cities on expenditures made using program funds and compares that information to approved purchase plans to ensure that these funds were spent as approved.”
Homeland Security agreed to do so.
In December 2018, Congress passed the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Act that consolidated a series of previously unconnected DHS organizations into the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office. The office, headed by the new DHS assistant secretary for countering weapons of mass destruction, assumed responsibility for Securing the Cities.
The National Nuclear Security Administration does not fund Securing the Cities or participate directly in the response teams cities establish with funding from the program. The agency does, however, provide advice about which radiation detection systems participating cities could buy.
The Department of Energy branch also plans to coordinate with DHS on a “Domestic Detection Concept of Operations” that would help local and state officials coordinate with federal agencies such as the National Nuclear Security Administration and the FBI in case of a radiological threat to public health and safety, according to the Government Accountability Office.