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REGIONAL HOMELAND SECURITY

More Federal Funds Sought; Joint Training Planned

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By David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Washington region's top elected officials agreed yesterday to seek an increase in federal homeland security funds and stage joint training exercises for emergency personnel in the fall.

After meeting for an hour with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff at the John A. Wilson Building, D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) said they will submit their request for more federal grants April 5.

They declined to say how much they would seek. Last year, the D.C. region received $46.5 million in anti-terrorism funding, a decrease of $31 million from 2005. The reduction was part of a decision to reduce grants for major urban areas in the Northeast and provide more to midsize cities elsewhere.

Chertoff said in January that more than half -- $411 million -- of the $747 million in Urban Area Security Initiative money would be directed to six areas, including the Washington region. Still, it is not clear whether more money will go to the D.C. area, which must compete with five jurisdictions -- New York-northern New Jersey, Los Angeles-Long Beach, Chicago, the San Francisco Bay area and Houston -- for funding.

The officials said they also agreed to meet again to conduct a "tabletop" session to determine how the jurisdictions would react to a natural disaster or terrorist incident. That would be followed by the training exercises for emergency responders, they said.

"Maryland is very committed to working with our neighbors to create the capability and coordination and good planning we need to respond quickly and save lives," O'Malley said.

"It's important to test," Kaine said. "I'm thrilled we'll have a joint exercise."

This was the eighth regional summit since 2003 and the second since Fenty and O'Malley took office in January.

Although the officials projected a united front, O'Malley has been lobbying for federal authorities to expand the boundaries of the Washington region to include Baltimore and Richmond.

Asked yesterday to elaborate, O'Malley said that if the D.C. region were to be evacuated like New Orleans was after Hurricane Katrina, people would fill nearby cities and strain resources.

"The dollars have not been sufficient for the capability that would be needed," he said.

Chertoff said that although the formal definition of the local region does not include Baltimore and Richmond, federal authorities agree that planning should be done on a wider scale.

"The impact on D.C. would be felt in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware," Chertoff said. But he stopped short of endorsing a formal revision of the federal definition of the region.

Chertoff chose to highlight the harmony among the leaders, noting that he and Fenty were wearing patterned yellow ties.


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