The Transportation Security Administration, which brought to America humiliating and very public searches of airline passengers, is also masterful when it comes to clandestine and duplicative operations.
Right under the noses of the people of San Antonio and at a cost to taxpayers of just $400,000 a year the TSA has for more than a decade been breeding a kind of super hip-dysplasia-resistant dog for its K-9 Explosive Response Breeding, Leashing and Attacking Mission.
(Please note: the previous formal title for this hush-hush program was invented by Texas Watchdog to produce the acronym, KERBLAM. We apologize for this sophomoric diversion.)
And just when the TSA is on the brink of getting all this comingling just right, the TSA wants to shut down the Canine Breeding and Development Center at Lackland Air Force Base, the San Antonio Express News reports.
The loss of what might be called a poop shovel-ready program will wipe out a dozen or more local jobs and curtail federal research funding, the story says.
Officials for the Federal Air Marshal Service said the service intends to procure its super sniffers from the U.S. Department of Defense which, coincidentally, operates the world’s largest training facility for explosive detection dogs. At Lackland Air Force Base.
Retired Army Col. Jim Boelens, who has become a bit of an expert on the once-vital program by taking in the puppies-in-training, defended the program as cost effective and its budget “a pittance” of the the overall budget for the TSA.
From this rather limited perspective, Boelens is right. The 2012 Budget for the TSA is $8.1 billion, itself a relative pittance compared to the $57 billion annual budget for the Department of Homeland Security. (Please see page 85 of the document for the TSA breakdown.)
Overall, the budget includes $125.7 million for the TSA to deploy 900 canine teams to breath deep for potential threats at airports and other mass transit gathering places all over the country.
Dogs aren’t the only weapon. Homeland Security is currently spending $273 million for other explosive detection systems. And another $237 million for more than 3,300 sleuths known as behavior detection officers, trained to ferret out terrorists and criminals without resorting to the rough fondling of the privates of otherwise bedraggled travelers.
What’s more, KERBLAM (there we go again) costs just a fraction of the overall cost of putting on, entering and attending the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
While the Kennel Club is notoriously circumspect about its budget, the club stands to take in roughly $5 million this year, should the show attract 30,000 attendees, thousands below its record attendance. Not to mention its longstanding contract with the USA Network for broadcasting rights.
The $75 fee alone will generate $240,000 if the Kennel Club accepts its maximum of 3,200 entrants, according to its report.
There has been, unfortunately, no groundswell of support either for explosive-sniffing or hip dysplasia resistant dog categories at Westminster.
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.
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Photo 'TSA Sept. 11 Puppies 10' by flickr user NowCastSA, used via a Creative Commons license.