WASHINGTON – Homeland security spending nationwide is mired in administrative problems that are slowing down the cash flow essential for protecting the nation, say some members of Congress concerned about safety around high-risk areas such as Washington, D.C.
The city, considered among the most attractive sites in which to commit a terrorist act, reportedly lags far behind other urban areas in administering its $145 million in anti-terrorism grants from the Department of Homeland Security (search).
A congressional report reveals that Washington, D.C., spends 17 percent annually on homeland security, ranking last as compared with the 50 states.
The report, cited in Sunday's Washington Post, reveals that at least $120 million of the grants designated for anti-terrorism efforts in the D.C. metro area has not been spent. That includes homeland security grants designated for rescue efforts, protective gear, hospital beds, disease surveillance and other needs of first responders.
In addition, Washington will miss a June deadline for spending $46 million that has been available for the last two years. The city has asked the Department of Homeland Security for a six-month extension to avoid losing the grants.
D.C.'s local authorities say the large amount of unspent money is misleading because 80 percent of it, around $115 million, has been committed to projects around the Washington area to help fight terrorism but requires coordination with neighboring Maryland and Virginia officials.
A spokesman for the nation's capital also said that Washington is trying to take into account every dollar it spends, holding to a higher standard of spending the money carefully rather than quickly. The spokesman said that in other parts of the country some smaller cities that are not at a high risk have used their money for questionable purposes.
Homeland Security officials say they recognize the unique burden Washington faces in having to coordinate local, state and federal governments. Congressional members add that they are looking at legislation to fix what some consider a flawed system for handing out homeland security grants across the country.
Asked about the funding bottleneck, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (search), D-W. Va., told a Sunday morning television talk show that the problem is not limited to Washington, D.C.
"Frankly, just getting on airplanes when you go through screeners, how bad that still is, how the failure rate of when people try to sneak various things through, how successful they are. That's considered by me one of the success stories of homeland security and frankly it isn't," Rockefeller said.
Rep. Chris Cox (search), R-Calif., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told the Washington Post that one of the significant failings in the current system is the lack of consistency in the way monies are spent. He's proposing a bill that requires states to coordinate plans before applying for aid.
Republican Sen. John Cornyn (search) of Texas said his concerns about homeland security spending relates to the proportion of money going to smaller areas than to larger cities, even when the needs are greater in the bigger towns.
Cornyn said he and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., are proposing legislation to streamline funding by allocating money based on risk assessment and to provide more oversight of how the money is spend.
"There needs to be money spent where the risks are the highest," Cornyn told FOX News Sunday.
"Unfortunately, that does not appear to be happening. We're also seeing a problem with regard to divvying up the pie, so to speak, without regard to where the risk, the threats and the consequences of a terrorist attack would be the greatest on this country."
FOX News' Kelly Wright and Julie Kirtz contributed to this report.