Since the Center for Investigative Reporting launched its homeland security project in September of 2008, we’ve sought to obtain from as many states as possible records that showed how each spent the billions in preparedness grants Congress began handing out after Sept. 11.

From there, the center has developed stories, a blog and a map of the United States containing 51 profiles in homeland security that also serve as repositories of the extraordinary volume of records we ended up compiling. But we wanted to do more, partly by using web-based tools that make it easier for you to see federal homeland security grant spending online.

An example is some work we did recently for the Wisconsin State Journal. The pair of visual tools available below were built from data turned over by the Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance following a public records request. Together the features not only help Wisconsin residents decide if the state’s purchases make the grade, but anyone can use them to get a better idea of how these funds are being used nationwide. (They appear here and here on the State Journal’s website.)

*CBRNE stands for chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive

The federal government has awarded Wisconsin over $241 million in readiness grants since 2003 for anti-terrorism and disaster preparedness. Since states are typically allowed three years or more to actually spend the money, authorities have expended about $192.6 million so far.

Note that the features here only include public safety gear bought by local communities, state agencies and native tribes in Wisconsin, which totals up to around $111.2 million. Services such as consulting for response plans and training or personnel needed to administer the funds do not appear in the data. The information also only goes back to 2003 when the justice assistance office took over the grants, according to Greg Engle, homeland security program director for the state.

Use the drop-down menu in the bar chart to select a jurisdiction. Most of those listed are counties, but you can also choose “state agencies” for expenditures at that level and do the same for native tribes in Wisconsin. The bar chart shows you categories of spending, from communications equipment, which dominated purchases at $50 million statewide, to things like cyber security enhancement and agricultural terrorism prevention. (CBRNE stands for chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive.)

Text appearing below the bar chart provides you with deeper details by category. For example, Pierce County used $3,200 for an alarm system under the category of “physical security enhancement.”

The accompanying map shows you total spending for each county. The darker the shade, the more they’ve spent, and southeast Wisconsin where Milwaukee is located emerges as a big winner. Mousing over a county gives you the total amount in expenditures so far. For Milwaukee, that number is nearly $23 million. State agencies and native tribes are excluded from the map, because they could not be geocoded by county.

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G.W. Schulz is a reporter for Reveal, covering security, privacy, technology and criminal justice. Since joining The Center for Investigative Reporting in 2008, he's reported stories for NPR, KQED,, The Dallas Morning News, the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle, Mother Jones and more. Prior to that, he wrote for the San Francisco Bay Guardian and was an early contributor to The Chauncey Bailey Project, which won a Tom Renner Award from Investigative Reporters and Editors in 2008. Schulz also has won awards from the California Newspaper Publishers Association and the Society of Professional Journalists’ Northern California Chapter. He graduated from the University of Kansas and is based in Austin, Texas.