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  May 01, 2005

Urging Congress to Distribute Homeland Security Funds Based on Threat Not Political Pork

By Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg

The safety of the people who live and work in New York City is our Administration’s number one priority. It’s why we’re continuing to drive crime down to record levels. And it’s also why our police, firefighters, and other City agencies devote so much time, money, and manpower to counter-terrorism preparedness.

But our Federal government—in particular, Congress—must also do its part. It’s just common sense that Federal Homeland Security funding should go where it’s needed most: To the states and cities like New York, that face the greatest risk of attack. But unfortunately, common sense is once again taking a back seat to pork barrel politics in Washington.

The good news is that New York City is getting about $200 million in Homeland Security funds under the current Federal budget—and better than three-fourths of that money is coming in the form of grants allocated to us because of our “high-risk” status. But now, there’s a bill headed to a vote of the full U.S. Senate that would cut such high-risk Homeland Security grants next year by one-third. It would also increase the share of funds going to states that aren’t high-risk targets by anyone’s definition. That’s a giant step backward from what President Bush and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff want, and from what the 9/11 Commission recommended. There’s a different Homeland Security bill in the House, and it’s better than the Senate version—but it still makes the mistake of including a minimum share of Homeland Security funds for every state, regardless of threat.

I made our Administration’s position clear when I met with Congressional leaders and Secretary Chertoff in Washington last month: Homeland Security funding cannot be treated as political pork. We’re working with Senators Schumer and Clinton, with our Congressional delegation, and with our allies in Congress to ensure that Federal Homeland Security grants get distributed on the basis of threat and risk—period. And you should let the members of Congress know that you agree. Because when it comes to Homeland Security, we just can’t afford “politics as usual.”

Here in New York, we’re constantly strengthening our city’s counter-terrorism efforts. Last week, for example, we launched a major new training program for private security officers who work at dozens of our largest Midtown office buildings. Off-duty police officers and recently retired Police Academy instructors will train these security officers in such areas as identifying explosives and fraudulent I.D’s, and on the best ways to communicate and work with emergency workers during any kind of crisis. In short, they’ll be another set of eyes and ears where and when they’re needed most.

Fisher Brothers and Vornado Realty Trust, two of our biggest developers, are participating in the program. So is Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, the city’s largest building service workers union, led by its president, Michael Fishman. The program, called “New York Safe and Secure,” shows how New Yorkers are working together to prevent terrorists attacks. Now we need Congress to do its part.