WASHINGTON – The two cities targeted in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks will receive far fewer counterterrorism dollars this year than in 2005 in what the Homeland Security Department described Wednesday as a need to spread funding out to other communities facing threats.
Homeland Security officials also noted a $125 million cut in the funds available for the 2006 fiscal year from last year. In all, 46 cities will share $740 million in Homeland Security grants to prevent and respond to terror attacks and, to a lesser extent, other catastrophic disasters like hurricanes.
"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," Homeland Security Undersecretary George Foresman told reporters in Washington.
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.
But the cut was attacked by the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, who represents the New York suburbs and vowed to hit back at the department.
"It's absolutely indefensible, it's disgraceful. As far as I'm concerned the Department of Homeland Security and the administration have declared war on New York," Rep. Peter King told the Associated Press.
"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," King said.
Homeland Security assistant secretary Tracy A. Henke said biggest share of the dollars still would go to the nation's largest cities, with New York City winning the largest share — $124 million, down from $207 million in 2005. The national capital region, which encompasses Washington and its Maryland and Virginia suburbs, will receive $46 million, compared to $77.5 last year.
Hurricane-ravaged New Orleans will receive half of what it got last year — $4.6 million, down from $9.3 million — although Homeland Security said the money was to help cities grapple with catastrophic disasters from Mother Nature and terrorists alike.
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.