Washington, D.C. One flaw in the federal funding system that has long been recognised is that states compete against one another for limited budgets. This can have almost comical results. Take the $41 billion Homeland Security budget. To divvy it up between the states, an assessment is made of the terrorist threat using the number of potential targets. These are assessed on – for example – either the economic value (over $10bn) or number of lives (25,000 or more) that are potentially at risk. These are then put on the National Assets Database (NADB).
A recent report by the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security has caused much amusement in the US media because it reveals that Indiana, with 8,591 such assets, has some 50% more than New York (5,687) and more than two-and-a-half times as many as California (3,122). The cause of the mirth has been the apparently mistaken inclusion of ‘assets’ such as Old MacDonald’s Petting Zoo, Kangaroo Conservation Center, Beach at the end of [a] street, an ice cream parlor and a donut shop. In the US press these have been mistakenly allocated to Indiana. In fact, these ‘assets’ are not attributed to any particular state in the report.
The extraordinary disparity between the numbers of assets between states can be explained by the lack of guidance from a confused central administration. For example, due to lack of guidelines the entire Bay Area Rapid Transit system (the underground railway in the San Francisco Bay area) is listed as a single asset, whereas New York lists all 739 stations separately. Furthermore, according to the report New York accounts for just 2% of the country’s banking assets, ranking between Missouri and North Dakota. Where Indiana does appear to misreport is in the public health sector, where it lists 65% of the country’s total — including 417 nursing homes, which are apparently ‘critical assets’.
The extent of the confusion at the heart of the Department of Homeland Security is apparent when the report states that assets where ‘criticality needs to be determined’ include 25 golf courses, 24 swimming pools and 718 mortuaries. Conspiracy theorists might be interested to know that 34 Coca-Cola bottlers/distributors also make the ‘critical’ list, but that no Pepsi-Cola facilities are included.