I was on vacation last week in Grand Cayman, soaking up the sun and enjoying the freedom of "unplugging" myself from the constant connectivity that we all know and love/hate. Now I'm back, adjusting to the rainy and cold weather here in Maine and trying to catch up with all the news. I just saw that on May 19, the Department of Homeland Security announced its grant guidance and application kits for 2011 preparedness grants.
These 12 grant programs total $2.1 billion for states to prepare for terrorist attacks, disaster and other emergencies. These programs include State Homeland Security Program, Urban Areas Security Initiative, Transit Security Grant Program, Port Security Grant Program, Emergency Management Performance Grants, and more. All preparedness grant applications are due no later than June 20, 2011, except for Transit Security Grant Program applications, which are due no later than July 5, 2011.
However, fewer cities and states will be eligible for these grants and DHS has slashed the budget by $780 million from 2010 funding levels. Also, DHS has removed 30 cities from the list of urban centers receiving anti-terror funding, leaving only 31 high-threat urban areas eligible to receive grants this year, according to this AP report. Rep. Peter King, chair of the Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement that the cuts and allocations are a result of "this difficult fiscal climate."
Here's how the program worked out in 2010, according to the AP: 54 smaller cities were eligible to split almost $310 million in funding. Ten larger, higher-risk cities, like New York and Washington, vied for about $525 million. Thirty cities in 23 states and Washington will now share more than $662 million dollars. The lion's share, about $540 million, will be split by the 10 largest cities.
Obviously, there are several state leaders who are not happy with the DHS cuts:
Texas has been hit the hardest, according to this article: Austin, El Paso and San Antonio will lose a combined $14.5 million in Urban Areas Security Initiative grants, the largest dollar amount of any state.
Also, Sen. Joe Lieberman objects to the cut, which will halve Connecticut's security funds. "I understand that everyone must sacrifice to bring our federal deficit under control," Lieberman said in a statement. "But I do not support cutting the budget on the back of our national security, particularly since foreign and homegrown terrorists will continue to strike us at home."
Also included in the cities losing money are Providence, R.I., and Tucson, Ariz. Providence's city emergency management director, Peter Gaynor, told the AP he was perplexed by the decision, especially given intelligence culled from the raid in Pakistan earlier this month, calling the wholesale loss of funding "a complete shock."
According to this AP article, there are ten states left with no cities receiving funds after New Orleans, Honolulu and Indianapolis were cut.
Here's a little background about the program: The grant program was launched in 2003 in response to security threats in the wake of the terrorist attacks. Initially the money was available only to New York City, Washington, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco, and Houston. But since 2008 more than 60 cities have been awarded the risk-based grants.
The mounting national debt means the government has to make hard decisions about what programs to cut, but do you think these relatively drastic cuts to security funding are a result of fiscal responsibility or rising complacency? Or is this a way to direct limited funds to the cities that are at the highest risk? That's what New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told the AP. Bloomberg says that with resources for the program dwindling, "it's even more important to stop thinly spreading the money around the country without taking risk into account." He says "targeted cities like New York" must be the priority. Might be easy for him to say, considering this region of New York will continue to receive about the same amount - $151.5 million.