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DHS to Slash Funds for N.Y., Washington

Much of the outrage over the Department of Homeland Security?s (DHS) allocation of the $753.3 million Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) is a result of a lack of understanding and political opportunism by Capitol Hill. In order to make informed criticisms of DHS?s funding choices, an understanding of the grant allocation process is required. Unlike other major Homeland Security grant programs, UASI is allocated on the basis of risk. According to DHS, risk is determined by ?three principal variables: threat, or likelihood of a type of attack that might be attempted, vulnerability, or the likelihood that an attacker would succeed with a particular attack type and consequences, or the potential impact of a particular attack.” Further, DHS uses law enforcement and intelligence data, the presence of vulnerable pieces of critical infrastructure, population density, and a blind peer review process conducted by first responders to determine the grant allocation for particular localities. Given these criterion, it would seem illogical for DHS to cut back on its grant allocation for New York City and Washington, DC?widely acknowledged as two of the biggest targets in the country. However, the 2006 funding decisions must be seen in context. For example, while New York City?s 2006 funding was reduced to $207 from $124 million in 2005, it has received over $400 million in UASI grants since the program’s inception in 2003. It must also be noted that New York City has received twice the UASI grants of the Los Angeles/Long Beach area and more than twice the amount of the National Capital Region, respectively deemed the second and third biggest targets areas in the country. Therefore, Rep. Peter King?s (R-NY) claim that ?DHS and the administration have declared war on New York City? seems a bit disingenuous. From a purely economical standpoint, it must be considered that each additional dollar invested into New York City and Washington, DC will produce a diminishing return when compared to the same level of investment into a perceived lesser target. For example, while DHS was hesitant to fund the overtime budgets of New York Police Department (NYPD) programs like Operation Atlas, an ongoing patrol of heavily-armored police officers, it approved a $3.5 million increase for Louisville?s planned purchase of interoperable communications equipment for first responders. DHS prefers to fund longer-term investments in security infrastructure?improvements in communications systems, personal protective equipment, and first responder training?instead of what it believes to be ephemeral programs, like Operation Atlas. According to DHS?s logic, the investment into long-term infrastructure will pay greater dividends over time than the short-term and potentially unsustainable gains of extra police patrols. Unfortunately, DHS is in somewhat of an impossible position. Given its limited resources and the seemingly unending supply of targets, its funding priorities will always be open to criticism. If DHS had decided to maintain its level of funding to New York City and Washington, DC, there would have been less money to fund grants to other localities. Consequently, DHS would have been open to the criticism that it neglected ?softer? targets in other localities. There are still important and vulnerable targets outside of New York City and Washington, DC. For example, a successful attack on the Golden Gate Bridge would surely have a serious economic impact on the San Francisco Bay Area and a psychological impact on the country as a whole. While DHS deserves some measure of slack, given the difficulty of its position as outlined above, it also deserves criticism for its creation of a ?free-rider? problem. As noted by Christian Beckner of Homeland Security Watch, in some ways DHS?s funding decisions partially rewards cities

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