Video: Homeland security

msnbc.com news services
updated 6/1/2006 9:00:04 PM ET 2006-06-02T01:00:04

Officials in New York and Washington, the two cities targeted in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, were anything but happy after learning that Homeland Security was giving them far fewer counterterrorism dollars this year than in 2005.

New York City will receive $124 million — the largest amount under the Urban Area Security Initiative. But that's just 60 percent of the $208 million given in 2005. The cut comes primarily because the Homeland Security Department determined that New York has no national monuments or icons

“We’re going to continue to do what it takes to keep this city safe and then worry about the money but do I think they should have given us more, I don’t think there’s any question,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a news conference after the grants were announced Wednesday. “When you stop a terrorist, they have map of New York City in their pocket, they don’t have a map of any of the other 46 places or 45 places,” the Republican mayor added, referring to the total number of cities that share the funds.

New York Gov. George Pataki, a Republican now weighing a bid for the presidency, was also critical. “They are claiming that they are doing more allocations based on threat-based analysis but I don’t think that’s the case.”

Cuts ‘indefensible and disgraceful’
New Yorkers are seething over the news, and some are demanding the firing of Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff.

Rep. Peter King, a Republican from New York and chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, called the cut in funding “indefensible and disgraceful.”

“As far as I’m concerned the Department of Homeland Security and the administration have declared war on New York,” King added. “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.”

Video: New York's loss The Urban Area Security Initiative is meant to help cities and urban areas prepare for and respond to terrorist attacks and other disasters. About $710 million is being allocated to 46 cities in 2006, compared to nearly $830 million last year.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., on Thursday said President Bush “should not come back to New York and stand with us” until his administration comes up with more money to keep New York safe.

“This is wrong and unfair, but also outrageous,” Schumer said. “The bottom line is this is abandoning New York.”

In Washington, Homeland Security Undersecretary George Foresman said his agency would review its finding that New York City has no national monuments or icons that would be at risk of terrorist attack.

“We’re going to go back and look at it,” said Foresman, who said that the decision was made partly on attendance figures. A federal worksheet based on a variety of data was used to determine the “icon” status and the funding.

‘Terror? What Terror?’
Chertoff defended the cut on Thursday, while acknowledging that New York City was still at the top of the U.S. threat list. He said the nearly $125 million in grants for New York were in line with the average amounts the city has gotten in the years since Sept. 11. He added that New York has gotten more than $500 million in all, and that is more than twice the total received by the next-highest-risk city, Los Angeles.

“When actual decisions get made it tends to rub people who came out on the short end the wrong way. We are always willing to listen to criticism,” he said in a speech at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

The local tabloids have savaged Chertoff, with an editorial cartoon in the Daily News comparing him to Benedict Arnold. “Terror? What Terror?” asked a mocking front-page headline in the New York Post. “Shove off, Chertoff!” read page one of the Daily News.

Rep. John Sweeney, R-N.Y., called for Chertoff’s resignation. Bloomberg was less militant, although he questioned what was happening in Washington.

“I don’t have to list the Brooklyn Bridge, the United Nations and Rockefeller Center and the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building and the stock exchange,” Bloomberg said. “So you really wonder what was going through somebody’s mind.”

Assorted terror plots targeting the subways and other city landmarks have come to light since the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Schemes have mentioned the United Nations, the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, and the federal building housing local FBI offices.

NYPD officials said the drastic cut in funding ignored the city’s uncomfortable position as the top target for terrorists to strike. The department was depending on the federal money to:

  • Finance an $81.5 million proposal to safeguard Lower Manhattan and parts of midtown with a surveillance “ring of steel” modeled after security measures in London’s financial district.
  • Pay half of the $200 million annual cost of heavily armored patrols — called Operation Atlas — and other current security measures, including protection for the nation’s largest mass transit system.
  • Provide $38 million for counterterrorism training and equipment, such as biological and radioactive detection devices.

D.C. mayor upset
Washington Mayor Anthony Williams also criticized the government for awarding the Washington area about $46 million, compared to $77 million last year.

“I think it was very shortsighted for the federal government to gut our homeland security funding program. I firmly believe that this area could be attacked again at any time,” he said in a statement.

Homeland Security officials defended the distribution of the funds. In fiscal 2006, the department adopted a new way of allocating funding for certain programs based on risk and effectiveness of the cities’ plans for the money.

Some of the cities that had the largest increase in funding under the Urban Areas plan included Louisville, Kentucky; Charlotte, North Carolina and Omaha, Nebraska.

“At the end of the day our job is to make sure that we apply resources in an appropriate manner across the full breadth of this nation so that we get the maximum benefit out of those dollars,” Foresman told reporters.

State and local officials also need to budget for disaster preparations, Foresman said, calling the federal grants “designed to help us address the extraordinary, not the ordinary.”

The money generally pays for training and equipment for emergency first responders.

Threat risk a determining factor
The funding is part of an overall $1.7 billion Homeland Security grant program. Under the program, each state and U.S. territory gets some funding, this year totaling $550 million. Another $450 million will go to state public safety projects, medical responders and to help citizens prepare for disasters.

Until now, the grants largely have been awarded based on cities’ populations. Homeland Security still is weighing population as a factor in the grants, but it is mostly awarding the money based on a city’s threat risk and how effectively the city will use the funds.

The grants for cities make up the largest chunk of the funding, and has always been the subject of fierce lobbying by local leaders and members of Congress. The final awards often anger many officials who feel residents of their cities are slighted by not getting enough money — or none whatsoever.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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