Priorities: Has anybody looked at the cost of the department of Homeland Security lately?


by digby

Yes, we must cut Medicare and Medicaid because the government is so in debt. There's just no other choice.

Behold! The Johnston, Rhode Island SWAT team and their gear. According to, taxpayer largesse has equipped Johnston’s paramilitary-style police with two Freightliner tractor-trailers, twelve Humvees; 30 M-16 rifles and conversion parts to transform them into M-4 weapons; 599 M-16 magazines containing about 18,000 rounds; a sniper targeting calculator; night vision equipment, 44 bayonets for ceremonial purposes; five generators from M1 tanks; and 23 snow blowers. In this federally subsidized hardware bounty they are not alone . . .

First formed in LA for hostage rescue, SWAT teams have multiplied like M-16-wielding rabbits. (Take that Elmer Fudd.) Back in ’97, there were 690 law enforcement agencies policing U.S. cities with populations of more than 50k. According to an academic survey, 90 percent of them had active a SWAT team. That’s a lot of SWAT.
This number is not on the decline. So what are we doing with all these paramilitary [style] police?

Hostage rescues? Not so much to start with and not so many now. But the flood of federal funding has increased arithmetically and no-knock raids with it. The SWAT team’s modus operandi has jumped from 2k to 3k a year in the mid-1980s to 70k – 80k annually, according to Peter Kraska, criminal justice prof at Eastern Kentucky University [via].

So let’s zoom in on the eight-member SWAT team in Johnston:

The town of Johnston has received more than $4.1 million in military equipment over the past two years through a U.S. military surplus program that has supplied its Police Department with 30 M-16 rifles, 12 humvees, and military night-vision equipment, among others tools.

Supporters of the $2.5-billion surplus program see many valuable uses for municipal police departments. Johnston Police Detective Raymond Peters says the program is helping equip a SWAT team capable of becoming a “world-class hostage rescue team.”
Capable of becoming a world class hostage rescue team? You’d kinda hope they’d be there already; I make the federal contribution to the Johnston SWAT team’s quest for excellence $256,250 per officer (eight shown), per year, for the last two years.

This town has about 29,000 people and has never had a hostage situation or terrorist threat.

But setting aside the hideous authoritarian implications of setting up these para-military police forces in towns as small as this all over the country, you'd think we might be taking a good hard look at the costs of these things since we are allegedly in a debt squeeze so severe that we are thinking of asking the elderly, the sick and the poor and middle class give up essential services that will result in loss of life. They would seem to me to be at least as important as the non-existent terrorists of Johnston, Rhode Island.

h/t to JS