Anti-Terror Funding Cut In D.C. and New York
Thursday, June 1, 2006
The Department of Homeland Security yesterday slashed anti-terrorism money for Washington and New York, part of an immediately controversial decision to reduce grant funds for major urban areas in the Northeast while providing more to mid-size cities from Jacksonville to Sacramento.
The announcement that the two cities targeted on Sept. 11, 2001, would suffer 40 percent reductions in urban security funds prompted outrage from lawmakers and local officials in both areas, who questioned the wisdom of cutting funds so deeply for cities widely recognized as prime terrorist targets. The decision came less than five months after Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff unveiled changes in the grants plan intended to focus funding on areas facing the gravest risk of attack.
Potential targets outside the Northeast also took painful hits, including New Orleans, San Diego and Phoenix. New Orleans's grants for security and disaster preparedness were cut in half even as it struggles to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.
In Washington, where the funding dropped from about $77 million to about $46 million, Mayor Anthony A. Williams called the decision "shortsighted."
New York's grant plummeted from about $207 million to $124 million. A DHS risk scorecard for the city asserted that the home of the Empire State Building and the Brooklyn Bridge has "zero" national monuments or icons.
"As far as I'm concerned, the Department of Homeland Security and the administration have declared war on New York," Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told the Associated Press. "It's a knife in the back to New York, and I'm going to do everything I can to make them very sorry they made this decision."
Homeland Security's grant programs have drawn criticism from cities both large and small; many have felt slighted by what they maintained was a haphazard and unfair distribution plan. This year's round of grants was supposed to ensure that enough money goes to areas at highest risk of terrorist attack by employing risk scores, effectiveness tests and 17 "peer review" panels consisting of homeland security professionals from 47 states.
But department officials struggled yesterday to defend the latest outcome even as lawmakers in both parties denounced them. Most experts and many government officials had expected that the new review process would lead to more money, rather than less, for major terrorist targets such as Washington and New York.
Tracy A. Henke, assistant secretary for grants and training, told reporters that the new funding distribution was the result of a better review process and does not indicate lesser risk for cities such as Washington or New York. Officials noted that Congress had cut the program by about $125 million in 2006, to $711 million, and that New York, Washington and other major cities still would receive the largest shares.
"We have to understand that there is risk throughout the nation," Henke said. "We worked very hard to make sure that there was fairness in the process."
The department refused to release the names of panel members or other details about the review boards.
I. Michael Greenberger, director of the Center for Homeland Safety and Security at the University of Maryland, said the plan doesn't pass the common-sense test.