WASHINGTON – Nearly half a billion dollars will be given to U.S. cities and regions to help reduce the risk of terror attacks on ports, transit systems and chemical plants, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced Tuesday.
Recipients will have to submit detailed plans on how they will use the funds to protect critical sites, Chertoff said.
"We're simply not going to give the money out without any accountability," Chertoff said, adding that this was being done to make sure the money "goes for the kinds of things the public expects."
He touched on previous grant programs that were so broad they allowed cities to use allocations to pay for just about anything, including leather jackets.
Nearly half the grant money, $201 million, would be used to secure ports and rail systems, including Amtrak. The Port of New York and New Jersey would get the biggest share, $27.2 million.
Chertoff's announcement came as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg complained during a Senate hearing that his city was long overdue in getting its fair share of anti-terrorism grants. He compared the current system to spreading dollars "across the country like peanut butter."
"For the sake of New York City and the security of our nation, I hope you will stop writing politically derived formulas into homeland security bills," Bloomberg told the Senate Homeland Security Committee, which is considering further legislation to enact recommendations of the 9/11 commission.
Seven other ports qualified for Tier 1, or highest risk status. Those included the ports in the New Orleans region, devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The ports will get $17.3 million, followed by $15.7 million for the Houston area. The other five ports were Los Angeles-Long Beach, Calif. ($14.7 million); Seattle-Tacoma, Wash., area ($12.2 million); Delaware Bay consisting of Philadelphia, Wilmington, Del., and southern New Jersey ($11.3 million); San Francisco Bay area ($11.2 million); and the Sabine-Neches River in the Port Arthur-Beaumont, Texas area ($10.9 million).
DHS set aside $172 million to protect the nation's transit systems, with New York City and northern New Jersey getting the largest cut of $61 million. This year, money for rail and bus systems are combined, so recipients can decide which system needs more attention, Chertoff said.
Washington, D.C. and the Baltimore area will get $18.5 million, the Boston area $15.3 million, followed by the San Francisco Bay area at $13.8 million. The other four cities considered in Tier 1 are Chicago ($12.8 million); Philadelphia ($9.7 million); Greater Los Angeles ($7 million); and Atlanta ($3.4 million). Amtrak will get $8.3 million.
Transit funding this year includes 19 ferry systems in 14 regions in California, Connecticut, southern New Jersey and Delaware, northern New Jersey and New York City, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington state.
Intercity bus systems and trucking safety will each get $11.6 million. And DHS set aside $48.5 million for "buffer zone protection" which would provide security around critical facilities such as chemical plants.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., remarked that the New York region was awarded a small boost in funding in this grant category from last fiscal year.
"We're glad this is a modest increase in funding for New York, but we're still not close to our fair share of what we need," he said.
Chertoff said he wanted to get away from the mindset of officials comparing how much money they got from year to year.
"We're investing resources where risk is greatest and where the funds will have the most significant impact," he said.