DHS Requests $300 Million To Purchase Even More Devices That Don't Work

from the the-only-defect-i-see-is-that-not-enough-money-is-being-spent dept

For all of us who agree that the US government spends money wisely (yeah... that's pretty much nobody), here's yet another depressing story about throwing away perfectly good taxpayer money in the bizarre pursuit of... well, what exactly?

This particular story starts way back in the Cheney-Bush years (no, that's written correctly) when the administration was pushing for the adoption of the Advanced Spectroscopic Portal machine as a way to prevent importation of radioactive materials for use in dirty bombs or workshop nukes.

It's a promising idea. Anti-terrorism technology with a specific aim and purpose. This would be all well and good, except for one little problem: they don't work.

In January, the National Academy of Sciences released a report that found there was no way to know whether the machines, known as ASPs, worked as promised. An academy panel found that in promoting the machines to Congress, the department's Domestic Nuclear Detection Office had presented its findings "in ways that are incorrect and potentially misleading."

That report followed the department's decision to abandon plans to use ASPs for primary screening at ports and borders because of such questions.

The DHS has a much different definition of "abandon" than you or I (or Webster) do, apparently:

Now, the nuclear detection office said it intends to buy up to 400 ASPs by 2016, according the office's budget request, even though the department has not fulfilled internal requirements to conduct an independent review of the results of ASP testing before buying the equipment, according to the new GAO report.

Interesting. No, wait, the other thing: Preposterous. Even better, the GAO found that the DHS has no intention of ever having the ASPs independently reviewed. But that won't stop it from asking for more money, despite it being stated earlier by the Obama administration that this very program would be scaled back:

In February 2010, Obama administration officials told Lieberman that they had decided to sharply scale back the ASP program because of continuing questions about its costs and performance. But in February this year, department officials said in a budget document that they intended to use the machines widely for secondary screening. The department said that "between 300 and 400 ASP systems are required to complete the currently planned build-out."

Well, I'm sure the DHS knows best. After all, way back in 2006, the GAO found that the program's adminstrators had "underestimated the costs, overstated the benefits and provided misleading information to Congress." This isn't the sort of thing that stops an unsuccessful government program, though. If anything, it just means "double down."



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    :Lobo Santo (profile), Jul 15th, 2011 @ 12:13pm

    Props!

    The security theater troop needs more props and special effects--oooh, and costumes! You can't put on a believable show without props, special effects, costumes... and a good set.

    You simply cannot expect these actors to re-use the same worn-out old props, sets and costumes all over the country! How very unprofessional it would appear.

    So, everything MUST be shiny and new for the gropers in blue.

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2011 @ 12:15pm

    "...Weapons not food, not homes, not shoes
    Not need, just feed the war cannibal animal
    I walk the corner to the rubble that used to be a library
    Line up to the mind cemetary, now
    What we don't know keeps the contracts alive an movin'
    They don't gotta burn tha books they just remove 'em
    While arms warehouses fill as quick as the cells
    Rally round tha family, pocket full of shells... "

    -Rage Against the Machine: Bulls on Parade

     

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  3.  
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    A.R.M. (profile), Jul 15th, 2011 @ 12:24pm

    Tim, your writing style and I aren't getting along. I can deal with the sarcasm, but only to a point. When it's every other sentence, it's annoying and grating. I find it difficult so much crass has to be delivered in order for your words to get to their point, now making it difficult to find unless I recall the title of the article.

    Perhaps tone it down, please? Best I can do is ask. Otherwise, my eyes and your articles will have no choice but to part ways.

    I couldn't even get past the first paragraph on this one.

     

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  4.  
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    Richard (profile), Jul 15th, 2011 @ 12:39pm

    Sucker for a salesman

    This just demonstrates what I have said for years - politicians and officials are suckers for a good snake oil salesman.

     

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  5.  
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    Ninja (profile), Jul 15th, 2011 @ 12:40pm

    Re:

    Go ahead and leave, we won't miss you =)

    The sarcasm is justified and even necessary here.

    The bright side is that pretty much every country is like that, if the program earns money to the ppl (politicians) involved then it gets doubled even if it fails.

     

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  6.  
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    lucidrenegade (profile), Jul 15th, 2011 @ 12:42pm

    Re:

    buh bye!

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2011 @ 12:45pm

    While the senate debates cutting entitlements that have a very real and direct impact on actual citizens, DHS wants to spend MORE money on useless technology. Even if these devices worked properly, are they really necessary or does some senator's brother-in-law own a company that supplies parts to build these things. Do we really need a DHS? Or do we simply need another government agency to oversee DHS, because I dont think I will feel safe and secure until that happens.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Ken, Jul 15th, 2011 @ 12:47pm

    Punishment will be far more than $5000

    It may only be $5000 but the net effect is going to be devastating to Righthaven. Judge Hunt also gave a lot of ammunition to current and past victims. Righthaven regardless of whether they stay in business or not will be fending off a swarm of lawsuits for years to come. If they go bankrupt then Stevens Media and MediaNews group will be on the hook so don't be surprised if these media companies artificially prop up Righthaven to shield themselves from liability.

     

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  9.  
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    Chris Rhodes (profile), Jul 15th, 2011 @ 12:57pm

    Re:

    Feel free to ask for a refund.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2011 @ 1:00pm

    Re:

    @A.R.M.

    He is the literary equivalent of fingernails on a chalk board.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    Chris Rhodes (profile), Jul 15th, 2011 @ 1:00pm

    Re: Sucker for a salesman

    They funnel taxpayer money to their friends in snake oil businesses in exchange for campaign contributions and political favors.

    I don't think the politicians are the suckers in this story.

     

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  12.  
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    Jay (profile), Jul 15th, 2011 @ 1:03pm

    Re: Re:

    Wow... looking at these comments. That's kinda harsh.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2011 @ 1:04pm

    Re:

    I thought he'd actually *understated* the sarcasm. I would be far more contemptuous if I were writing this piece. So my request to Tim would be to increase the snark by 200-300%; where the DHS is involved there's no such thing as too much cynicism.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Jul 15th, 2011 @ 1:07pm

    Re: Punishment will be far more than $5000

    Wrong article dude.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    DCX2, Jul 15th, 2011 @ 1:11pm

    Follow the money

    Why would DHS spend $300 million on shit that don't work?

    Follow the money. Just like Chertoff and RapiScan, I'm sure someone powerful is benefiting from these hundreds of millions in cash giveaways from our cash-strapped government.

     

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  16.  
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    codeslave (profile), Jul 15th, 2011 @ 1:13pm

    Corruption

    At what point will the DHS & TSA be investigated for corruption? We already know there's a revolving door between administrators and lobbyists/investors/sales reps, but this reminds me of the scandal between Boeing and the Air Force: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Air_Force_tanker_contract_controversy

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2011 @ 1:27pm

    These are the same politicians that are trying to undermine science education in the United States I presume?

     

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  18.  
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    \r (profile), Jul 15th, 2011 @ 1:34pm

    Re: Punishment will be far more than $5000

    Yes, we should test the next generation of warhead on Righthaven then. .. and use the $5000 to pay any fallout victims who in turn get to be the lucky ones that get to use the shorter security lines on the ABS machines and this 300MM can go to feeding and educating the children that find themselves in surroundings that make it difficult to be fed and educated in. Good plan!

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2011 @ 1:39pm

    I dont understand why people dont want to be secure. Our government is trying to keep us safe from bad people and that takes money...lots of it. We should support everything our government does to keep us safe and secure.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2011 @ 1:41pm

    $300 million?! Pfft. Pocket change. The sad truth is that our government is so wasteful, $300 million is hardly even worth mentioning.

     

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  21.  
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    deane (profile), Jul 15th, 2011 @ 1:56pm

    another case of government corruption, how sad. now if only the DHS would stop their whining and let us grope them, then maybe things would change!

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 15th, 2011 @ 2:06pm

    what the fuck?

     

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  23.  
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    Austin (profile), Jul 15th, 2011 @ 3:12pm

    Asking an Expert

    Someone please explain to me why the following won't work:

    - Buy Geiger Counters at 1/300th the cost of these ASPs
    - Bolt said counters to cranes in ports, near the arms that actually pick up the containers ($20 for overpriced bolts)
    - Run wire from counter to speaker in crane operator's cockpit ($30 for overpriced wire)
    - Set threshholds where we inspect the containers in person. If shipper refuses, simply force them to ship it back unless they agree.

    What is wrong with this? What is wrong with using existing, proven technology and common sense? I'm not a nuclear physicist, but from what little I do know, even the comparatively small amount of nuclear material needed for a dirty bomb is detectable several blocks away. Wouldn't a Geiger Counter a whopping 6 inches from the container pick it up? Even if it won't detect it 100% of the time, if Norton Anti-Virus has taught me anything, it's that NOTHING will detect threats 100% of the time. This ASP crap probably doesn't detect more than 80% of the time at best. Can't a simple Geiger Counter match that level of success???

     

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  24.  
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    American A-hole, Jul 15th, 2011 @ 3:37pm

     

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  25.  
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    JMT (profile), Jul 15th, 2011 @ 10:24pm

    Re:

    Wait, if you "couldn't even get past the first paragraph", how do you know there was sarcasm in "every other sentence"? Are you exaggerating for effect or just complaining because you like to?

    Those of us who enjoy Tim's writing style will not be too bothered if your eyes depart.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Torqsnoid Blamsmak, Jul 16th, 2011 @ 7:31am

    Round these hyar parts...

    ...we call such behavior "pissing money down a rathole."

    As a federal agency, the DHS, along with its monstrous step child TSA, are chief amongst them all at waste, fraud and abuse, with heavy emphasis upon "abuse", if'n ya knows what I mean.

     

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  27.  
    icon
    Jay (profile), Jul 16th, 2011 @ 11:20am

    Re: Re: Sucker for a salesman

    It's not just this story.

    A former DHS CEO is profiting from every pornoscanner that's produced.

    Steven Tepp was on the Senate Judiciary Committee before working for the US Chamber of Commerce.

    The CIA wastes a ton of money on bogus software.

    The Patriot Act was passed on faulty reasoning.

    And don't get me started on the copyright enforcement takedowns.

    Let's face it, our government really is at war with us. All to protect themselves.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
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    Marcel de Jong (profile), Jul 16th, 2011 @ 11:24am

    300 million dollar? For security theatre?

    So, the DHS requests more money, even though the US is basically almost at a total financial meltdown? That's gutsy to say the least.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
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    JustMe (profile), Jul 18th, 2011 @ 4:42am

    Late comment in support of the Snark

    Keep it up Tim, I read so many bland and boring news pieces that a bit of snark is welcome.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    rubberpants, Jul 18th, 2011 @ 10:14am

    Re: Corruption

    Right after the treasury department investigates itself and wall street for the financial collapse.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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