Politics
A man dressed as a zombie gestures during the V edition of the so-called  A man dressed as a zombie gestures during the V edition of the so-called 'Zombie Walk' in Mexico City, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)  

Homeland Security grants went to ‘zombie apocalypse’ training [VIDEO]

Photo of Caroline May
Caroline May
Political Reporter

Most believe zombies are relegated to the movies and video games, but Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn has highlighted the Department of Homeland Security’s participation in a staged “zombie apocalypse.”

According to Coburn’s most recent oversight report “Safety at Any Price: Assessing the Impact of Homeland Security Spending in U.S. Cities,” first responders were approved grant funds for a $1,000 entry fee to a week-long HALO Counter-Terrorism Summit in San Diego where the “marquee” event was a demonstration of a “zombie apocalypse.”

“[Strategic Operations] performed two shows on Halloween, which featured 40 actors dressed as zombies getting gunned down by a military tactical unit. Conference attendees were invited to watch the shows as part of their education in emergency response training. [HALO president Brad] Barker explained that, ‘the idea is to challenge authorities as they respond to extreme medical situations where people become crazed and violent, creating widespread fear and disorder,’” the report reads.

Coburn was not pleased by the event or much of the waste detailed in his report.

“For instance, paying for first responders to attend a HALO Counterterrorism Summit at a California island spa resort featuring a simulated zombie apocalypse does little to discourage potential terrorists. I hope this report encourages DHS to award funds based on calculated risk, not politics,” Coburn said upon the report’s release. “Congress has a duty to ensure that this grant program does not become a parochial, pork-barrel entitlement program. We need to help the program fulfill its original goal of providing funds for projects in areas most at risk.”

The government has spent over $35 billion on DHS grant programs since 2003, and according to Coburn, there is no measure that Americans are safer today than they were before the multibillion dollar expenditures.

Also highlighted in the report is an underwater robot purchased with a $98,000 grant to look for “sunken treasure,” surveillance at the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres spring training facilities at a price of $90,000, a Bearcat armored vehicles to protect a small town’s pumpkin festival, $41,000 for a Remote-Control Helicopter in Seattle and $6,200 in sno-cone machine purchases. (RELATED: 2013 zombie swimsuit model calendar)

“We have seen the value of these grants time and again,” said DHS spokesman Matthew Chandler in a statement reported by The Huffington Post. “As envisioned by Congress, these grants have directly supported the development and sustainment of core state and local capabilities identified as national strengths in the 2012 National Preparedness Report — from helping to save lives and minimize damage during the tornadoes in the South and Midwest, Hurricanes Irene and Sandy to building a national network of fusion centers to strengthen critical information sharing and terrorism prevention.”

Update: Following the release of Coburn’s report the HALO Corporation issued a statement clarifying that the event did not use government funds and featured serious educational programs.

“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 Barker in a statement. “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.”

Follow Caroline on Twitter