Government officials are spending taxpayer dollars preparing for a zombie apocalypse, according to Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn's annual report on wasteful security spending.
The report, "Safety at Any Price," identifies millions of dollars the Department of Homeland Security dished out for programs to install underwater robots and remote-control helicopters.
According to the report, DHS has paid more than $35 billion trying to keep Americans in cities across the country safer, but Coburn says some of the money was spent unwisely. Coburn calls attention to $1,000 that was spent sending law enforcement to an event that included a live demonstration of how to take down zombies at a HALO counterterrorism summit in California.
The civilian tactical training company Strategic Operations "was hired to put on a zombie driven show to simulate a real-life terrorism event," the report says.
The HALO Corporation called the report misleading and untrue.
"The report's suggestion that Department of Homeland Security and Urban Areas Security Initiative funds were used to pay for the zombie apocalypse training is absolutely untrue," said Brad Barker, president of the HALO corporation. He added the program was put on by a sponsor and no taxpayer money was spent.
"At a time when our $16 trillion national debt is our greatest national security threat, we must make sure that all programs, especially those meant to prevent terrorism, are achieving their mission," Coburn said in the report released December 5. "For instance, paying for first responders to attend a HALO Counterterrorism Summit at a California island spa resort featuring a simulated zombie apocalypse does little to discourage potential terrorists."
Other questionable spending targeted in the report includes the small town of Keene, N.H. — population 23,000 — buying an armored vehicle to patrol its pumpkin festival.
Pittsburgh, Pa., used DHS funds to buy $88,000 worth of "long range acoustic devices." The city used the noise makers to break up protesters at the G-20 summit, but allegedly gave one person permanent hearing loss.
A town in Ohio spent $98,000 on an underwater robot, which it said could be used for "underwater rescues."
The report alleges that Michigan law enforcement officials used DHS funds to buy 13 sno-cone machines and in Illinois, officials spent $45 million on a video surveillance program that malfunctioned.
The report is an effort by Coburn to reform the way DHS hands out its Urban Area Security Initiative funds, a $7.1 billion grant program for local government security initiatives.
DHS, however, says their spending is sound.
"The Department appreciates the issues raised in Senator Coburn's report, but fundamentally disagrees with the report's position on the value of homeland security grants and the importance of investments in our first responders on the frontlines and the development of critical capabilities at the local level," says Matt Chandler, a DHS spokesman. "We have seen the value of these grants time and again."
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Lauren Fox is a political reporter for U.S. News & World Report. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow her on Twitter @foxreports.