NEWS

White House Wants to Cut Homeland Security Programs

By Matthew Harwood

The Bush Administration is radically rethinking the way cities will pay for their homeland security programs, according to a leaked budget memo obtained by the Associated Press.

The department [of homeland security] wanted to provide $3.2 billion to help states and cities protect against terrorist attacks in 2009, but the White House said it would ask Congress for less than half — $1.4 billion, according to a Nov. 26 document. The plan calls for outright elimination of programs for port security, transit security, and local emergency management operations in the next budget year. This is President Bush's last budget, and the new administration would have to live with the funding decisions between Jan. 20 and Sept. 30, 2009.

Long Island, New York's Newsday, clearly worried about how such a cut would effect New York City, had more details.

The leaked document calls for slashing the federal program geared to the highest-risk cities, from which the New York region receives the lion's share of its funding - about $134 million this year. It eliminates other programs entirely, including those geared to port, bus, truck and transit security.

Another proposed change would prohibit federal funds from being used to cover salaries - a huge potential hit to New York City, which uses a portion of its grant money to pay some of the 1,000 cops assigned to terrorism.

The Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Sean Kevelighan told the AP that negotiations between the Bush Administration and his office were still ongoing and that none of the budget cuts have been finalized.

Already, politicians from both sides of the aisle are lining up to dismiss any budget cuts to local homeland security programs.

Senator Charlies Schumer (D-NY), speaking with Newsday, said the budget cuts would be "dead on arrival."

Senator Barabara Boxer (D-CA) seconded Schumer's evaluation and told the AP, "This administration runs around the country scaring people and then when it comes to putting their money where their mouth is, they say 'sorry, the bank is closed."

Representative Peter King (R-NY), the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, expressed bewilderment saying, " "If this is real, it's a serious mistake and I will do everything I can to fight it."

And in a joint statement, Chairman Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and ranking Republican Susan Collins (R-ME) of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee called on the Bush Administration to reconsider its "wrong-headed strategy."

Administration insiders, according to Newsday, say the leaked memo is consistent with Bush Administration policy which said that the initial federal funds to jumpstart local homeland security programs were never meant to be permanent.

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