Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Terrorists target blue state cities, but...

This is old news but important to keep in mind.


New York Daily News - http://www.nydailynews.com/

We get $5-a-head for security

By BRIAN
KATESDAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Monday, November
24th, 2003 New York, the world's premier target for terror, gets less homeland
security funding per person than virtually any state in the nation.


Man for man and woman for woman, Wyoming
(population 493,782) does better - $38.31 per person, compared with the paltry
$5.47 in counterterrorism funds spent on each New Yorker.
"Every square inch
of Wyoming is as vulnerable as every inch of New York," Joe Moore, Wyoming's
director of homeland security, told the Daily News. "If you say there are no
terrorists in Wyoming, that's just where they'll strike."


So far, though, whatever threat Osama Bin Laden and his
terrorist minions pose for Wyoming lurks primarily in the minds of its
politicians. New York, on the other hand, has been targeted five times and
suffered two horrendous attacks, including, of course, the one on Sept. 11,
2001.
Yet New York goes begging while Cheyenne, Wyo. (population 53,200),
now boasts two gleaming, state-of-the-art bomb squad units, special equipment
for neutralizing bombs and a new communications system for its 90-member police
force, said Police Chief Robert Fecht. And the department expects to receive
still more special equipment when a second grant is approved.


Never mind that the bomb squad of
Wyoming's most populous city comprises only three technicians, which it shares
with the police department in Laramie, 50 miles away.
And no matter that the
price tag for Cheyenne's new equipment was only $120,000. The amount represents
a huge percentage of the tiny police department's $700,000 operating budget.
"This is a tremendous amount," Fecht conceded. "It's major assistance."
Yet
of the $900 million New York City has determined it needs to counter terrorism,
it has received only $84 million from the federal government so far. Officials
expect to get $75 million more in the next round of funding.


The Fire Department, still staggering
from its losses on Sept. 11, has sought $331 million in homeland security
funding. It has been promised less than $36 million.


The NYPD has determined it needs $261 million. It has received
only $60 million.


"We are doing a lot and
it is costing us a lot - something on the order of $200 million a year in
operational expenses for counterterrorism in the Police Department alone," said
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. "We're funding this on our dime."


A purview like no other

New York's first responders must protect
8 million people - as many as 11 million during work hours - day in and day out.
They're charged with protecting the Stock Exchange and the Federal Reserve Bank,
the United Nations and scores of foreign consulates. And since 1993, they have
had to secure high-profile trials of 25 terrorists at Manhattan Federal Court,
just a few blocks from the World Trade Center site.


Wyoming has, well, Yellowstone National Park.

Said Mayor Bloomberg, "Precious homeland
security dollars should be based on a complete threat analysis, not doled out
like political pork."


In fiscal 2003, the
federal government provided $3.45 billion for first responders across the nation
through three programs mandated by Congress:


$1.9 billion in state formula grants

$800 million for high-threat urban areas

$750 million in firefighter assistance grants.

Of the three, only the high-threat program takes into account
terrorist vulnerability. And it accounts for only 23% of the total.


The bulk of funding is distributed
through state formula grants, which allot every state - regardless of population
or the actual threat of terrorism - three-quarters of 1% of the $1.9billion pot.


In this Alice-in-Wonderland process, New
York, ranked by the feds as No. 1 in risk of attack, comes out almost at the
bottom - 49th - in per capita funding. New Jersey, 10th in risk, is ranked 42nd
for funding.


As Kelly put it, "More than
80% of the Department of Homeland Security's first-responder funds are being
distributed blind to the nation's counterterrorism needs."


So Wyoming - the least populous state, with no federal risk
rating - gets about six times more per capita than New York. The other small
states also share disproportionately in the bonanza.
Take North Dakota.
Grand Forks (population 70,000) got $1.5 million in homeland security largess.
It now has an armored van, decontamination tents and more biochemical suits than
there are cops to wear them.


The fire
department in Zanesville, Ohio, (population 25,600) now boasts a thermal imager
to find victims in heavy smoke, a test kit for deadly nerve agents and other
high-tech apparatus.
Meanwhile, New York's Fire Department has to make do
with only one fully deployable hazardous materials unit for the entire city.
Inflexible federal rules don't allow state grants to be used for increasing the
specialized manpower needed to create a much-needed second unit.
The FDNY
also has sought $207 million to upgrade its communications system; it has
received $3 million.


"The Fire Department
has to be prepared for things that we never had to be prepared for before," said
Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta. "Training and equipment are needed to deal with
chemical disasters, radioactivity, dirty bombs, bioterrorism and so forth.


"But what frustrates those of us with big
departments is that the money is not there for us because the funding is being
dispensed on an equal basis to all the states."


The formula extends to other critical agencies as well. Of the $65
million in homeland security money earmarked for transit systems, for example,
Denver, Pittsburgh and Portland, Ore., got $1 million each.


New York's Metro-North Railroad, which carries 72 million
commuters a year in and out of Manhattan, got nothing. Zero.


Last June, Homeland Security Secretary
Tom Ridge told lawmakers the Bush administration is working on a funding formula
"that better takes into account threats, population density and the presence of
critical infrastructures."


Cuts looming

But the inequity is only getting worse.

In fiscal 2004, the total amount
distributed on the basis of need will decline. High-threat urban areas will
receive about $725 million, a 10% cut, while the other programs will grow to
$2.95 billion, a 10% increase.


There are
three proposals in Congress to change the funding formula, including one by New
York Republican Rep. John Sweeney, whose district extends north of Albany -
hundreds of miles from Ground Zero.


"I am
from a rural area, so you'd think I'd like the current rules," Sweeney said.
"But I think we need to protect the areas that need protecting. We need to take
the politics out of this."

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