Since 9-11, the United States has spent approximately $1 trillion on national security and counter-terrorism programs, according to The Atlantic. Their latest investigative story explains how much of that money was well-spent and how much was wasted. Spoiler alert: A lot was wasted.
Determining whether a project failed is sometimes subjective, and it is difficult to assess such a large number of programs. But according to journalist Steven Brill’s calculations, the U.S. government has spent as much as $150 billion on “failed or unworthy homeland-security programs” and “equipment that hasn’t worked.”
Here are some of the most abysmal failures, and how much they cost:
1. $200 Million on Pathogen Detectors
Fear of bioterrorism spread rapidly after 9-11. In 2003, the federal government enlisted private contractors to develop machines which would detect weaponized pathogens in the air. After 11 years and $200 million, the contractors presented devices that didn’t work.
2. $2 Billion on TSA Screening Equipment
Counter-terrorism funding has flowed steadily into the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The federal government spent $2 billion to improve the equipment the TSA uses to detect bombs in baggage. But the new equipment turned out to be no better than the old equipment.
3. $1 Billion on Motion Sensors at the Border
In 2006, the federal government contracted Boeing to develop camera towers and motion detectors to monitor our border with Mexico. The government spent $1 billion dollars on sensors that triggered alarms when wild animals scurried around and cameras which provided no visibility where the ground was hilly.
4. $230 Million on Drive-Through Radiation Detectors
Drive-through radiation detectors are used at border crossings, and the ones currently in use have high false alarm rates. The government came up with a $2.5 billion plan to develop new detectors which would reduce the false alarms. The prototypes, which cost $230 million, showed zero improvement, so the plan was abandoned.
5. $400 Million on Biometric ID Cards
The federal government wanted to give biometric ID cards to airport workers, seaport workers, and truck drivers who hauled hazardous materials. Completing the project took five more years than it was supposed to, and the finished ID card readers didn’t even work.
6. $47 Billion on a First Responder Communication System
The federal government has spent $47 billion on developing a program called FirstNet—a communication system for fire fighters, police officers and other first responders. The project was started in 2012 and still has not been completed. Worse still, it may never be completed because the technology it’s using is already obsolete.
The majority of the $1 trillion spent on national security and counter-terrorism went towards functional programs and equipment, but the massive waste of taxpayer dollars on failed systems is unacceptable.
Check out this video of one senator demanding answers about a wasteful national security program:
Image via Pixabay.