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The Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP) Essay

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Updated: May 27th, 2020

Overview

On September 9, 2001, the United States experienced a horrendous terror attack within its territory, which forced the government to rethink its security strategy to preclude and fight terrorism in its protection policy.

A radical Islamist terror group infamously known as Al Qaeda hijacked four planes destined for the United States and crushed two of them into the World Trade Center towers.

One rammed into the Pentagon while the second one crashed on a field in Pennsylvania after missing its intended target, viz. Washington, D.C.

The occurrence of the attacks on the same day resulted in many frustrations for security agencies as they tried to mitigate the effects of the attacks, assist the victims get the appropriate aid while simultaneously preventing the occurrence of any further attacks by being on high alert (Federal Bureau of Investigations, 2014).

The extent of property loss, damage, and loss of lives were devastating enough to cause the American government to restructure its policies for effective operations and incorporation of terrorism as an essential national security concern.

Part of the new changes included the formation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2002, which was tasked with the duty of ensuring security within the national borders in addition to mitigation of effects of attacks from enemies of the state within and outside the country (Abbott, 2005).

The Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP)

One of the mechanisms that the Department of Homeland Security utilizes in ensuring the achievement of its core duties is the Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP) established in 2003, which essentially enables the effective implementation of the National Preparedness System (NPS).

The program facilitates the building of strategic security systems at state and national levels, sustenance of such systems, and delivery of the benefits of the systems to the American population as per the mandate of the various institutions that participate in the program.

The program covers five areas namely, “prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery based on allowable costs” (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2014, par.5).

The agency also explains that the program has three grant sub-programs within the main program, which serve different purposes, albeit interconnected to one another.

The division of the program into three sub-programs facilitates effective management while fostering accountability in addition to covering more areas using limited resources.

The three sub-grants comprise “the State Homeland Security Program (SHSP), the Operation Stonegarden (OPSG), and the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI)” (Abbott, 2005, p.63).

The State Homeland Security Program (SHSP)

This grant focuses on the issue of security at the state and local levels. This perspective allows state agencies to deal with security concerns that are unique to specific states appropriately and more efficiently than the federal government would if it employed a collective perspective to the matter.

The fund allows each state to achieve goals and objectives in the individual preparedness reports, with little interference from similar operations in other states.

In the year 2013, the SHSP’s total funding was approximately $355 million. The State Administrative Agency in all the states including Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, the U.S Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Marina Islands, and American Samoa are the only ones eligible for the SHSP funding.

Such agencies include the Department of Public Safety, State Office of Homeland Security, and the Emergency Management Agency, among others.

The authorization criterion considers factors such as the minimum amount as per legislation, anticipated effectiveness, and the Department of Homeland Security’s risk assessment methodology (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2014).

According to the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, at least twenty five percent of the funding should cater for equipment, training, planning, and organization necessary for terrorism prevention.

The rest of the funding caters for acquisition of secure identification documents, driver’s licenses, catastrophic events, and other security concerns that do not necessarily fall under the description of terrorism (Public Law 110-53 the U.S, 2007).

The main advantage that the grant offers state agencies with regard to preparedness is that it enables them to undertake several projects simultaneously.

Although the guidelines stipulate the types of items that the government authorizes in utilization of the funds, the categories that it provides are broad enough to afford state agencies a variety of options when considering equipment and facilities to suit their specific objectives.

Apart from the acquisition of equipment, the fund allows the agencies to incorporate training of security personnel for better service provision to the population and the creation of sufficient contingency funding for mitigation and recovery purposes in case of attacks.

The fund’s appropriation occurs on a yearly basis for all the states, although some receive more funding than others do, depending on the size of the population and estimated risks, among other reasons.

This aspect means that the state governments can undertake long-term security projects without necessarily relying on state revenue predictions.

Additionally, state agencies prioritize their plans according to the unique needs of the areas in which they are located without interference from the federal government as long as they comply with oversight procedures.

The main challenge in relation to the allocation of the SHSP funding is the establishment of the exact amount that each state needs each year due to the unpredictable nature of crises.

This aspect is a challenge because even though the fund caters primarily for terror-related security concerns, the occurrence of natural calamities sometimes creates a need for more alterations in the amount of funding that some states receive.

In such cases, states that receive less than they expect need to explore alternative sources of funding to ensure that their projects do not fail. The second challenge related to this fund at state level involves prioritization of projects.

However, the establishment of fund management and oversight systems ensures that the management of the funds is compliant with the grant guidelines.

The most notable obstacle to the efficient appropriation of the SHSP is the establishment of organizations that qualify as state agencies in relation to the amount that each applicant from each state should receive.

State governments operate independently from federal governments, even though they work towards the achievement of common national goals and objectives.

This fact results in an obstacle because while some states have fewer agencies, others have numerous agencies and subsequently numerous projects that may need funding simultaneously.

Such situations require the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to decide on projects that require immediate attention, regardless of the level of urgency with which each agency considers its project.

The Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI)

The UASI grant focuses mainly on populous metropolitan areas within the United States such as New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. The nature of these areas in terms of population density and trade attraction makes them highly susceptible to threats of terrorism.

Funds from this grant allow local authorities to undertake proper planning for the prevention of such threats, conduct training sessions to enable preparedness among service personnel such as firefighters, and other first responder units, response in case of any attacks, or different crisis situations and assist in recovery efforts thus reducing the vulnerability of these areas.

During the 2013 financial year, the total funding for the grant was approximately $589 million divisible between twenty-five high-threat metropolitan regions all over the country.

Although the State Administrative Agency is the only entity with eligibility to apply for funding, not all candidates qualify for funding on a yearly basis.

Appropriation depends on a yearly risk analysis of the 100 most populous urban areas within the United States by FEMA with regard to a likely threat of terrorism, in compliance with the 9/11 Act.

The most important notable opportunity that the grant provides for local state governments that qualify for funding is the chance to build elaborate prevention and mitigation systems within their regions to reduce the vulnerability of their populations while applying state revenue to other vital projects.

Essentially, state governance agencies operate as business entities in terms of utilization of revenue.

They strive to ensure that the expenditure involved in the provision of basic social amenities and services falls below the tax revenue that they obtain in order to facilitate the successful completion of preparedness programs for security purposes.

Like any other business-oriented institution, sometimes the expenditure exceeds the revenue causing the authorities to stall some projects as a matter of prioritization (Buckingham, 2001).

The UASI grant ensures that security-related projects do not stall due to insufficient revenue, especially for high-threat populous urban regions.

A good example that demonstrates the value of the additional funding is the role the New York Fire Department played in the successful evacuation and facilitation of recovery after the 9/11 attack.

In a city with a population of more than seven million (United States Census Bureau, 2014), the fire department provides first responder services for the entire population.

Although the department has approximately 13,000 personnel to handle emergencies, its preference for central operations, continuous personnel training, and high-quality equipment mainly obtained through the grant’s funding ensures that the people are safe (The New York Fire Department, 2014).

The most challenging element with regard to the UASI funding remains the determination of cities that qualify for funding from among the top 100 most populous cities all over the United States.

This aspect remains a challenge as the nature of terror attacks makes it nearly impossible to isolate areas that are more likely to experience attacks as compared to others.

Although the DHS conducts thorough risk analysis before determination of states qualifying for funding under this grant, the analysis remains speculative in nature.

The possibilities of an attack similar to the 9/11 attack on less populous areas still remains a possibility. However, the contribution of the SHSP to every state reduces the risk of vulnerability for smaller cities, thus ensuring some level of security even without the UASI funding.

Access to this fund remains an obstacle for most states due to the constant growth that most cities experience in terms of population alongside policies that prevent such access for various reasons. In most cases, “the government only conducts census exercises once every five to ten years” (United States Census Bureau, 2014, par.7).

This aspect means that the DHS in its determination of the 100 most populous cities relies on such statistics during the organization’s risk analysis process.

Subsequently, the organization fails to consider fluctuations in population and levels of growth in some states, thus culminating in possible errors that applicants may not be in a position to rectify in their quest for funding.

Changing the situation requires the government to review policies on census exercises or the organization’s criteria in the determination of applicants that actually receive funding from this program.

Operation Stonegarden (OPSG)

Operation Stonegarden’s funding focuses mainly on the country’s borders and travel routes around the country inclusive of territorial waters, with the aim of detection, prevention, and neutralization of threats to national security.

The fund fosters cooperation and allows coordination of security activities among local, territorial, state and federal agencies. Unlike the previous two programs, eligibility for funding is more liberal for the OPSG.

The program allows applications from “federally recognized tribal governments bordering Canada, states bordering Mexico in the south, states with international border territories, and local units of government at the county level” (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2014, par.9).

However, these entities need to apply to the fund through their respective SAA for ease of management and identification. The total funding available in this program in the 2013 financial year was $55 million (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2014).

As with the other programs in the HSGP, the allocation of the funds is based on risk assessment, albeit by the U.S Customs and Border Protection (CBP) using sector-specific risk methodology.

The fund provides several opportunities for local and federally recognized tribal governments with regard to initiation of preparedness plans and programs within their territories.

For instance, the fund allows agencies to explore new ways through which to identify threats and respond appropriately using technological advancements (Merges, Menell & Lemley, 2012, p. 69).

Agencies such as the Immigration and Customs Enforcement department have been in a position to prevent the entry of counterfeit drugs and illegal weapons into the country through monitoring website activities on the Internet.

The Customs and Borders Patrol in conjunction with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement department through the actualization of Operation Pangea V to combat illicit crime organizations seized 3.7 million doses of counterfeit drugs with the estimated value of $ 10.5 million thanks to website surveillance (Global Intellectual Property Centre, 2013).

The main challenge for this program is raising enough funds to cater for the needs of the numerous agencies that qualify for funding with varying urgency for the application of the funds (Smith, 2006).

This aspect remains a challenge because unlike the previous two programs, the OPSG program undertakes the evaluation of numerous agencies through the application of risk management factors in addition to the investment justification given for such funding and disburses funds through SAA.

Apart from the rigorous evaluation process, the funding for this program is significantly lower than that of the other sub-grants in the same program. Therefore, FEMA has to exercise extreme diligence while awarding any amount of funding under this grant.

Although the funds available for each individual agency are dismal in comparison to the other sub-grants, prudent use of the funds still makes a difference as it substitutes available revenue.

The major obstacle to the effective utilization of this program in terms of achieving its objectives lies in the amount of funding allocation by the federal government.

The reason for this analysis is because the SHSP and the UASI, which both get more than three hundred million dollars in total funding, the OPSG gets less than one hundred million dollars divisible among numerous applicants, thus resulting in disbursement of funds in amounts that may not necessarily cater for the purpose intended sufficiently.

References

Abbott, B. (2005). A legal guide to Homeland Security and Emergency Management for State and Local Governments. Chicago, IL: American Bar Association.

Buckingham, M. (2001). Now, Discover Your Strengths, New York: Free Press.

: FY 2013 Homeland Security Grant Program. (2014). Web.

Federal Bureau of Investigations: . Web.

Global Intellectual Property Centre: United States Chamber of Commerce. (2013). Web.

Merges, R., Menell, P., & Lemley, M. (2012). Intellectual Property in the New Technological age. New York, NY: Aspen Publishers.

. (2007). Web.

Smith, F. (2006). Budgeting for disasters—part I: Overview of the problem. The Public Manager, 35(1), 11-19.

. (2014). Web.

United States Census Bureau: New York (city), New York. (2014). Web.

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