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.”

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Comments on “DHS Requests $300 Million To Purchase Even More Devices That Don't Work”

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:Lobo Santo (profile) says:


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.

Anonymous Coward says:

“…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

A.R.M. (profile) says:

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.

Jay (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Ken (profile) says:

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.

r (profile) says:

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!

Austin (profile) says:

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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