Thursday, June 22, 2006

Lawmaker seeks to restore anti-terrorism funds

Lawmaker seeks to restore anti-terrorism funds
By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A key Republican congressman on Wednesday said he would push for legislation to rescind steep cuts in federal anti-terrorism grant funds for New York City and Washington.

New York Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said he was outraged at new Department of Homeland Security risk allocation methods that reduced 2006 anti-terrorism funds for New York by $83 million, and for Washington by $31 million.

During a break in a committee hearing on the issue, King said he would speak with Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, about crafting a bill to restore the lost funds.

"I think it would be very difficult to change this allocation. What we're trying to do is find other homeland security funding to put in," said King, who represents New York suburbs on Long Island. "We want to put so much pressure on (the department) that they will find another way to get some money in."

George Foresman, Homeland Security Department's undersecretary for preparedness, told the hearing the department had done a good job of spreading a 14 percent lower funding.

"It is not that the threat to New York and Washington diminished, it is because our understanding of the risks in other cities has increased," Foresman said.

The Homeland Security Department's allocations shifted a greater portion of funds to smaller cities such as Louisville, Kentucky, Charlotte, North Carolina, and Omaha, Nebraska.

The funds for New York and Washington, the targets of the September 11 attacks, will be cut 40 percent. New York's share, still the largest of any city, will fall to $124.5 million from $207.6 million last year, while the Washington area's grant will fall to $46.5 million from $77.5 million last year.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg pledged to maintain protections for New Yorkers regardless of federal funding, but said the added cost burden would force cuts elsewhere.

"When you ask what have we done without, because we don't get a particular grant from Homeland Security, the answer is found in our school system, in our libraries, in our cultural institutions, in helping those who are less fortunate," he said.