Once again, the Department of Homeland Security has allocated billions of dollars in anti-terror funding, and once again New York City has received a far smaller slice of the pie. The DHS is awarding only $134 million in Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) Grants for the New York City region- a scant 7.7 percent increase from last year's allocation of $124 million. The New York Urban Area includes New York City, Yonkers Suffolk, Nassau and Westchester counties and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey area.
While it is certainly true that any one
on the staff of this newspaper or any of its readers would consider $134 million a windfall of riches beyond belief, everything is relative. Considering the costs attendant on recruiting, training and equipping emergency personnel and the city's primary counter-terrorism agents- the New York City Police Department- that $134 million will not go very far. "New York is still falling short of the vital federal funding needed to support its unique security demands," Governor Eliot Spitzer said.
New York City is not like other places on the DHS anti-terror allocation list. The city is the financial and communications capital of the world and through their many symbolic landmarks, the city and state remain known targets. Even so, the DHS has not delivered funding consistent with New York's threat level. The DHS says the city is getting almost as much this year as in 2005, if grants for transit, ports, and communication are considered. But the city says grants for ports and transit go to state agencies and do not fund city anti-terrorism efforts. There is a substantial difference between the two.
This is not the first time we have marveled at the `criteria- unknown to us- that the DHS uses to determine who gets how much. In 2007, as has been largely the case in previous years, 46 cities, including 14 cities smaller than Staten Island, covering slightly more than half (54 percent) of the country were eligible for urban homeland security grants.
Currently, the Department of Homeland Security selects urban areas and provides UASI funds based on a formula that takes into account factors including population density, amount and vulnerability of critical infrastructure and credible threat information. The New York state Office of Homeland Security, in contrast, will distribute federal funds using a threat-based formula that includes a number of factors such as population, urban areas, state and national icons or symbols as well as critical infrastructure.
The strategy is a comprehensive statewide approach to public security designed to prevent a potential terrorist attack and to respond more effectively if an attack occurs in any region of the state. Surely, it makes more sense to allocate counter-terrorism funds based on potential threat.
Every city has its own cherished landmarks and special buildings. But we fail to understand the thinking that makes them deserving of the same level of funding for protection as venerable institutions in New York City. We say this not out of pride or snobbery, but as a matter of simple, inescapable fact. Targeting a site in New York City will do more damage and attract far more attention to a terrorist's cause, whatever it may be. The criminals of 9/11 took out the World Trade Center, not grain silos in Nebraska, for precisely that reason.
Department of Homeland Security head Michael Chertoff claims to have a "gut feeling" that terrorist activity is on the rise. If he were to back up that gut feeling with some logical allocation of anti-terrorism funds, more of us might sleep better at night. Allocating anti-terrorism funding by means of and in ways that make no sense does nothing to enhance the security of the nation or assuage the unease of the population.