WASHINGTON, DC - Members of Congress representing the areas of the country most likely to be targeted for terrorist attacks today sent a letter to key members of the Bush administration requesting more federal funding to secure the country's largest centers of population, power and infrastructure. The letters urge Homeland Secretary Tom Ridge and Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson to revise funding formulas that they largely control to focus more on high-risk areas. Ridge has said publicly that he supports a "significantly higher" amount high-threat grants and a revision of distribution formulas but has not submitted a proposal to Congress. The letters were written by Reps. Carolyn Maloney (NY-14) and Anthony Wiener (NY-9) and signed by 16 of their colleagues.
This action come in the wake of the House of Representatives passing a Homeland Security Appropriations bill that cut high-threat discretionary grants to cities by $300 million from last year and the Senate Appropriations Committee enshrining into law the current homeland security grant formula, which gives Wyoming $32.25 per person but only $4.60 per person to New York.
"The issue is a plain as day - terrorists are likely to target symbols of power and areas of dense population, not open pastures," said Maloney. "Instead of just throwing money into the wind, the administration needs to take a stand with efficient and sensible homeland security spending so that we can secure the ports, bridges, tunnels, streets and buildings in our most populated areas. Lives are depending on it."
"Secretary Ridge said it best: places like New York City need more aid to fight terror," said Rep. Weiner (NY-9). "The current funding formula turns that principle on its head and it needs to be changed."
The USA TODAY this week reported that some low-population areas that are receiving homeland security grants are unsure of what to do with them ("Antiterror funding questioned", July 14, 2003).The letters call for the following action regarding homeland security funding:A request for full-funding of high-threat discretionary grants that go directly to the 31 metropolitan areas most targeted for terrorist attacks. Last year, $800 million in grants were appropriated, but the House passed an appropriations bill in June with only $500 million in grants. A formal proposal to Congress revising the basic grants to first responders. The current formula, which was just enshrined into law by the Senate Appropriations Committee, equally distributes the first 40% among the states and leaves the final 60% up to the discretion of the administration. Ridge chooses to distribute that money on a per capita basis, which results in the low-density, low-risk states receiving much greater funding per person that high-density, high-risk states. A formal proposal from Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson to revise the funding formula for bioterrorism aid for states. Under the current formula, over which the administration has full discretion, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and HHS's Health Resources and Services Administration grant more than $1.3 billion per year under a formula that spends $15.69 per person in Wyoming, but only $3.79 for New York.
The metropolitan areas designated as "high threat" are as follows:
Atlanta, Baltimore, Beaumont, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Honolulu, Houston, Kansas City, Newark, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Memphis, Miami, New Orleans, New York City, Phoenix, Portland, OR, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Port of Hampton Roads, Port of Valdez - Alaska, Sacramento, St. Louis, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa and Washington, DC.
Read the letters
Letter to Secretary Ridge
Letter to Secretary Thompson