Somervell Armoured Vehicle-OF COURSE I can see what my tax money got spent on.

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Somervell Armoured Vehicle-OF COURSE I can see what my tax money got spent on.

11 March 2010 at 5:49:22 PM

The other day I saw an article in the Texas Tribune that was talking about how US Homeland Security grant money was dished out to various counties. In particular, there was a paragraph about how Somervell County had gotten an armoured vehicle.

And you never know when terrorists might attack the nuclear power plant in the second-smallest county in the state. That’s why Somervell County used nearly $180,000 in homeland security money to buy a military-grade armored truck to protect the county’s 7,900 residents.

I remembered I had written about Burleson getting one of these In that piece there\'s a link to this article from the Burleson paper, complete with a photo of the Lenco Bearcat. The article mentions that the bearcat would be used for SWAT operations as well as to help out at Somervell County\'s Nuclear Power Plant at Comanche Peak.

Burleson has mutual aid agreements with more than 100 law enforcement agencies. Burleson’s SWAT team has responded to assist other agencies that do not have SWAT teams or whose SWAT team needs backup. Response scenarios include potential incidents at Somervell County’s nuclear power plant, with the area’s railways, natural gas wells and Spinks Airport as well as deployment with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), United States Marshal Service, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Secret Service.

I found, on the Texas Tribune\'s website, the link to exactly how much Somervell County got for the grant.  Bear in mind this is PUBLIC information.

Entity: Somervell County
Purchase: LENCO BearCat
Unit cost: 228646
Quantity: 1
Total cost: $179,550
Date: 4/4/2008
Year: 07-08

I didn\'t remember seeing this before, and, although you can go look at the BearCat online by using The Google, I wanted to see it in person. But where was it? I emailed Judge Maynard, who told me it was at the LEC.

Went over to the LEC and was taken to see it, while being asked why I wanted a picture and what was I going to do with the picture, and the LEC didn\'t want to advertise they had it. But the officer who was showing me the vehicle said they had taken it to the Lion\'s Club and another club to show it off. So really, you can\'t keep private  items that public tax money pays for, and that appears on government LISTS of open records. You can\'t.

I wondered what the vehicle is being used for and it\'s anticipated that it might be used if there was some kind of trouble at the nuclear power plant. It\'s apparenlty pretty much the same vehicle as the military uses, just outfitted a little differently, but same thick armour, etc. The vehicle inside holds 8 people. I have heard that the official newspaper of Glen Rose, the Glen Rose Reporter, is going to do an article about this and I hope they include some stats about exactly when and how the vehicle has been used.

The Texas Tribune took a little satirical view of the grant. For myself, I don\'t think having the Bearcat is a bad thing OR a good thing, I feel pretty neutral. but I do agree with the Texas Trib here.

As a result, local governments across the nation have access to millions of dollars they can use for any priority they reasonably say could help in a disaster-related situation. In fact, from 2002 to 2007, according to the GAO, funds were getting doled out quicker than some state and local governments could spend them, in some cases sitting unused for months at a time. While the agency had established goals for the use of the money, the GAO reported that DHS failed to develop a system that could analyze the effectiveness of the grant funds in improving the nation’s capabilities or reducing its risk. 

Despite repeated inquiries, FEMA officials who oversee homeland security grants never responded with direct answers about what steps they have taken since the 2008 GAO report to measure what effect on national safety the billions spent have actually had. A July 2009 GAO report indicated that FEMA still hadn\'t found a way to measure whether billions in security grants for urban areas effectively added response capabilities, though the agency told GAO investigators an effort was underway to develop such an assessment system.

How does the local government ensure that the bearcat is being used effectively? Is there a way to measure whether having the Bearcat has mitigated risk for the local law enforcement personnel or people at, say, Comanche Peak? Officer McGravey said that the Bearcat had been used in an emergency preparedness drill and I think that\'s a fine thing. Will be interesting to see some more on this topic.


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