Department of Homeland Security a Bureaucratic Behemoth After Eight Years

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And, other conservatives are urging lawmakers to go further, including reconsidering DHS grants to state and local law enforcement to beef up preparedness for a terrorist attack. The agency has distributed more than $40 billion to localities through those grants since 2003.

"The last thing the U.S. needs in another entitlement program, particularly in homeland security," wrote Jena Baker McNeill and Matt Mayer in a report for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

"When state and local officials can rely on federal money to finance projects that are clearly local responsibility, competing interests engender a horde of unnecessary, wasteful projects that would probably never be funded if the localities had been forced to bear the financial burden themselves," they wrote.

But former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, the second to head the agency during the Bush administration, said today that DHS has largely proven it is not inclined towards pet projects and abuses of discretionary funds that have characterized military spending.

"There are many urban myths out there," said Chertoff when asked about waste and pork-barrel spending on security programs. "Most of the money in the president's budget now is dedicated to higher-risk areas and generally speaking we didn't get a lot of earmarking."

And while efforts to increase administrative efficiency to reduce costs will continue, experts say the nation's homeland security apparatus, like its entitlement programs, will likely remain exempt from deep cuts for the foreseeable future.

A recent Gallup poll found 56 percent of Americans oppose cuts to spending on homeland security programs with 42 percent in favor. By comparison, 61 percent oppose cuts to Medicare.

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