In Washington, money talks and political paybacks are the order of the day. And if Sen. Chris Dodd’s (D-CT) recent maneuver is any indication, then his choice to slash aviation security funding in favor of fire grant dollars to union buddies speaks volumes about the homeland security priorities of liberals in Congress. In a recent Washington Examiner article, it was revealed that Sen. Dodd, along with other colleagues in the Senate, diverted critical funds that were supposed to be used to detect explosives at airports to pet fire grant projects for his union buddies who helped get him elected.

It is high time Congress gets serious about where it uses its security monies. Pushing more and more dollars into all sorts of homeland security grants that don’t translate into real security progress is a waste of taxpayer dollars. Dave Muhlhausen, Senior Policy Analyst at the Heritage Foundation, has done a detailed study looking at whether or not DHS fire grants reduce fire casualties. While firefighters are integral part of communities, his research indicates that these grant dollars actually have very little impact on their intended goal of reducing fire deaths and provide very little in terms of improving fire service in communities–making these grants $5.7 billion better spent elsewhere.

On the heels of a nearly executed airliner bombing, this revelation seems all the more ridiculous. Explosives detection would have come in handy right when a man attempted to smuggle explosives in through his underwear.

Matt Mayer, another Heritage colleague, proposes a better way to handle these homeland security dollars-pushing states to develop their own capabilities and providing better ways to align money with security priorities.

It remains important that any federal homeland security spending is done in a smart way, whether at airports or elsewhere. More money does not equal more security. DHS needs to spend money in a way that brings tangible results in terms of stopping bad guys from accomplishing acts of terrorism. Much of this begins before a terrorist would ever have the opportunity to enter a screening line. Intelligence tools like the PATRIOT Act, information sharing with law enforcement and international partners, and putting pressure on countries to stop terrorists from staging operations in their country are the kinds of acts that will go a long way towards stopping terrorist at its earliest stages.

It is safe to say that most Americans prefer security over helping Sen. Dodd get reelected or score brownie points with his union buddies. And the Christmas Day plot demonstrates just how close an individual came to using a airplane to kill 200 plus people. Washington needs to get its priorities straight.