Dems: Security grants not enough for 'high-threat' cities

A leading Democratic member of Congress has charged that the administration's latest round of grants to protect U.S. urban areas is insufficient to guard those most threatened by terrorist attacks.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York leveled the verbal attack on the administration's latest announcement of first-responder grants at Department of Homeland Secretary Tom Ridge. Maloney is chairwoman of the House Democratic Task Force on Homeland Security.

"Shortchanging American cities at the top of the terrorists' lists is no way to fight a war on terrorism here at home," Maloney said. "The administration has time and again turned its back on the communities most at risk. The administration is willing to hand out grants to places Al Qaeda couldn't find on a map, even if they were trying."

The Department of Homeland Security announced this week it will provide an additional $725 million in grants to urban areas to help enhance their overall security and preparedness level to prevent, respond and recover from acts of terrorism.

Under the latest initiative, DHS will provide $675 million through the fiscal 2004 budget in the form of grants through the states to 45 urban areas to enhance their security. The department also will provide $50 million through the states for 30 urban areas to secure mass transit.

As evidence that the administration is forcing high-profile, big-target cities to fend for themselves, Maloney said the following are cuts in this year's security funding:

  • 60 percent cut from New York City, from $150 million in 2003 million to $47 million in 2004;

  • 52 percent cut from national Capital region, from $60.6 million in 2003 million to $29.3 million in 2004;

  • 17 percent cut from Chicago, from $40.9 million in 2003 million to $47 million in $34.1 in 2003;

  • 10 percent cut from Los Angeles, from $31.3 million in 2003 million to $28.2 million in 2004.

  • The urban areas are chosen based on a formula that accounts factors such as critical infrastructure, population density and credible threat intelligence information, according to DHS. Furthermore, funding allocations among the cities, contiguous counties and mutual aid partners will be based on an urban area assessment and strategic plan.

    Eighty percent of the funds allocated to the states under this program must be awarded to the designated cities and counties within the urban area, based on a strategic plan. The state may use the remaining 20 percent to further security enhancements within the urban area.

    About the Author

    William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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