In her March 12 op-ed column, "To Each According to the Risks," Anne Applebaum asserts that America's cities and towns seek federal homeland security funds as a "solution" to their budget problems and that only a "few dozen" large cities need federal funds for homeland security. Both assertions are wrong.

First, cities and towns seek federal homeland security dollars to protect their citizens and to protect the first responders who answer 911 calls.

Since Sept. 11, 2001 -- the day local governments were thrust into national defense roles -- cities large and small have collectively spent more than $3 billion of their own funds to help cover the extraordinary and specific added costs of protection, equipment, training, planning and other aspects of heightened security for public facilities of all kinds.

To date, there has been virtually no federal compensation for these costs, which we don't expect will disappear. Here's how we are solving our budget problems: We are cutting back on services. We are laying off police. We are raising fees and raising taxes.

Second, local elected officials understand risk analysis. For that very reason, it would be irresponsible for us to accept that preparations for terrorism should be restricted to a "few dozen" large cities.

While we don't expect the federal government to help every single city and town, we do expect help that considers several factors beyond population alone, which is a point that is not debated.

Americans demand that our armed forces on the front lines in Iraq have the training and equipment to do their jobs and return home safely. Our police, firefighters and emergency workers on the front lines at home are no less deserving.

-- John Destefano Jr.

The writer is president of the

National League of Cities and

mayor of New Haven, Conn.