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“The report’s suggestion that Department of Homeland Security and Urban Areas Security Initiative  (UASI) funds were used to pay for zombie apocalypse training is absolutely untrue,” said Brad Barker, president of the HALO Corporation. “Absolutely no taxpayer money, DHS or UASI funds were spent on the zombie apocalypse demonstration. The Summit’s approval as a training event under the UASI program, and therefore the eligibility of law enforcement and first responders to receive grant funding to attend, applied to our in-classroom course curriculum, which comprised about 30 courses on counter-terrorism, emergency preparedness, disaster response, intelligence analysis, cybercrime, narco-terrorism, human trafficking  and more.”

Coburn said part of the problem is that DHS and its subordinate agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) rubber-stamp requests without regard to investigating the true needs for fighting terrorism and have given local communities no incentive to return unused monies.

He told the Washington Guardian that the government needs to get tougher with individual agencies. “First of all, cut their budgets. Number two, you have the Congress do oversight. Bring the agencies up here, set some new rules on grants. In other words, ‘you will oversight the grants, you will make sure they’re compliant. And if you don’t have the capability to manage it, maybe we’re spending too much money on the grant.’”

His report cited the example of $6,200 in grant money used to buy 13 sno-cone makers in one Michigan community. “FEMA explained that it approved the sno-cone machines because the grantee characterized them as a dual purpose investment that could be used to fill ice packs in an emergency as well as to help attract volunteers at community outreach events,” the report noted, adding federal officials couldn’t say how many times the sno-cone machines were actually used for those purposes.

“FEMA’s lax guidelines and oversight made the agency a virtual rubberstamp for most anything that grant recipients creatively justified as related to homeland security—regardless of how loosely related. Not surprisingly, state and local officials are given strong incentives by FEMA to spend every grant dollar given them rather than return any excess funds,” Coburn’s report noted.

The senator’s investigation also question several videos made by local communities using the Homeland funding, suggesting they were more about entertainment than valuable counterterrorism messaging. One video series in Kansas City, for instance, offered “little more than common sense suggestions like ‘have an emergency plan’ and ‘know the potential threats.’ The message of the video, however, is presented as a steady stream of jokes,” the report lamented.

The Washington Guardian and its partner, the Medill News Service, recently reported that all federal agencies combined have spent a total of $16.3 billion on outsider advertising, public relations, marketing and videographer contractors.