Homeland Security grants rile D.C., NYC
Feds say cuts result from new formula, smaller total budget
From Kevin Bohn
TOP 5 GRANT TOTALS
1. New York City: $124.5 million
2. Los Angeles/Long Beach: $80.6 million
3. Chicago: $52.3 million
4. Washington DC: $46.5 million
5. Jersey City/Newark: $34.3 million
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Homeland Security Department said Wednesday that the cities of New York and Washington will get less money in this year's allocation of grants, drawing harsh criticism from politicians in both areas.
The department announced the recipients of $1.7 billion distributed through various programs to help states and cities help prepare for potential terror attacks and natural disasters.
Outrage came from members of both parties in New York, where GOP Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said "DHS and the administration have declared war on New York City."
Department officials have changed the criteria used to award money under their programs, saying that instead of looking at population, they are trying to focus more on where risks exist. They are also taking into account how well municipalities have used past grants.
The department said there is risk throughout the nation and that preparedness dollars therefore need to be spread out.
One of the more controversial programs is the department's Urban Areas Security Initiative, which is aimed at cities and for which $757 million is being distributed.
New York and Washington are getting less under that program this year. New York, for example, will receive nearly $125 million, a reduction of about $83 million.
Homeland Security officials pointed out, however, that New York is still the largest recipient in the program.
Officials from New York and Washington -- the two cities targeted in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks -- criticized the actions of the Homeland Security Department.
Washington Mayor Anthony Williams told reporters Wednesday he was disappointed that funding for the city and its suburbs was dropping from $77 million to $46 million.
New York, he said, is also facing a "huge cut in Homeland Security funds. They're as much a target as we are. I think it's shortsighted for the federal government to cut funds in this way."
Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, complained that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff had "promised to fight to increase New York's formula, and here it is, we're being whacked with a two-by-four and we don't hear a peep out of Secretary Chertoff."
"Other states that have very little problems got an increase," he said at a news conference. "Georgia got a 40 percent increase. Somehow this administration thinks that Georgia peanut farmers are more at risk than the Empire State Building. Something is dramatically wrong."
Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York, chairman of the House Democratic Task Force on Homeland Security, accused the Bush administration of "incompetence" on homeland security.
"Earlier this year they were promising smarter funding. It goes to show you that you can't trust this administration to get anything right," she said.
"What competent person would possibly think that slashing security funding for the nation's top terrorist target is a smart idea? Knowing this administration, I expect the president to tell Secretary Chertoff, 'Heck of a job, Mikey.' "
In a conference call with reporters, a Homeland Security official defended the allocation to New York.
"It does not mean the risk in New York is different ... or lower," Assistant Secretary Tracy Henke said. "It means we have additional information, additional clarity" about how to best allocate resources.
She said one problem the department faced in making its decisions is that Congress allocated less money for all of the grant programs this year. She added that the department has much better information this year, which helped in the evaluation of where the money should go.
To help federal officials make the allocation decisions, Homeland Security officials from throughout the nation participated in panels that reviewed various applications for grants and then made recommendations. The final decision, though, was left to the federal department.
The department said the funds can be used for planning, organization, equipment, training, exercises, management and administration costs.
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