Senate Plan Cuts Security Funding for Big Cities

Major cities that compete fiercely for annual counterterror funding face a $12 million cut next year under a spending plan approved by a Senate panel Thursday.

The proposed funding drop follows bitter protests from the two cities targeted in the 9/11 terror attacks after the Homeland Security Department last month slashed their annual share by 40 percent.

The Senate Appropriations Committee also agreed to delay requirements for passports or other secure documents from travelers — including Americans — entering the U.S. from Canada or Mexico until June 2009.

The changes were part of an overall $31.7 billion Homeland Security spending blueprint for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. The plan would boost security funding by $715 million more than what the White House requested, and $1.4 million beyond current spending levels.

Click here for the Homeland Security Content Center

But it would reduce spending for the nation's high-risk big cities from the $757 million in 2006 to $745 million in fiscal 2007. The White House had requested $838 million for such cities in 2007.

Last month, New York and Washington officials howled after watching their 2006 funding levels drop by 40 percent while cities like Omaha, Neb., got a boost.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said the Senate spending plan doesn't cover needs for New York "or anywhere else."

"This drop in funding starts us off already in a hole," Schumer said.

The spending plan also would delay a controversial border security program for 17 months as lawmakers said the Bush administration appears unable to meet its initial January 2008 deadline. The program would require passports or a small number of other tamper-resistant identification from travelers who now enter the U.S. from Mexico and Canada using birth certificates and drivers' licenses.

The bulk of the money in the spending plan is targeted for the Coast Guard and for transportation and border security programs.

Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., who oversees the panel's homeland security spending, said the plan makes sure the funding "is concentrated on the greatest threats facing our nation: border security, preventing the use of weapons of mass destruction, and intelligence gathering capacity."

He said the plan will be considered by the full Senate as soon as lawmakers return from a weeklong July 4 recess.

The House approved a $32 billion Homeland Security spending plan in early June.