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Does New York City Receive Enough in Homeland Security Grant Funds?
May 05, 2010
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With last Saturday's failed bombing in Times Square, the issue of federal funding to support New York City's homeland security efforts has once again been raised in the news media. What is clear from the events in Times Square is that New York City remains at the top of the terror target list. With the distinction of being target number one comes significant funding needs to enhance and maintain security. The question is, is New York getting enough, and if not, how much federal funding assistance should New York get? The answer is complicated, but in short, the city likely needs more funding and the allowable uses of those funds should be re-examined as should the federal government's budgeting methods for such grant funds.

THE CITY-STATE

While New York is unique in terms of the level of risk it faces and its resulting security needs, it is also unique in several other respects. The size and density of the city (over 8 million people spread across 305 square miles) and its agencies is simply unprecedented at the local and state level, which also helps drive costs up given the sheer magnitude of resources to be funded. The NYPD's roughly 34,500 officers is more than double the second largest department in the U.S. in Chicago, which has approximately 13,000 officers. Unlike any other major city, New York is actually comprised of five counties, which are more often referred to as boroughs with each borough a part of the city government. Cities such as Los Angeles, Houston and Chicago are part of a larger, independent single county - Los Angeles County, Cook County and Harris County respectively.

SOURCES OF FUNDING

New York City, as with other major urban areas such as Los Angeles and Washington, DC, receives federal homeland security grant funds from a variety of programs. These include the Port Security Grant Program, (PSGP), the Transit Security Grant Program, (TSGP), the State Homeland Security Program (SHSP) and the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI).

It is the UASI program that often gets the most attention since it is the largest funding source for cities like New York. From fiscal year (FY) 2003 through FY 2009, New York has received approximately $951 million in UASI funds. While there have been some wild fluctuations in the past, on average, New York's share of UASI funds has been $135 million per year (14%), on top of the hundreds of millions of dollars from the other grant programs. No other jurisdiction in the U.S. comes close to this level of funding.

UASI FY03: $596,351,000 NYC: $149,000,000
UASI FY04: $671,017,498 NYC: $47,000,000
UASI FY05: $854,656,750 NYC: $207,000,000
UASI FY06: $710,622,000 NYC: $125,000,000
UASI FY07: $746,900,000 NYC: $134,000,000
UASI FY08: $781,600,000 NYC: $144,000,000
UASI FY09: $798,631,250 NYC: $145,000,000

ASSESSING RISK AND NEEDS

One of the great challenges in determining how much federal assistance New York and other localities and states need for homeland security is that the data available to make such decisions is limited. Shortly after 9/11, the White House Office of Homeland Security used a FEMA study to come up with the $3.5 billion annual national grant budget for states and localities. No one would argue the FEMA study was anything more than an educated guess, but it was the best available data at the time. However, to continue nine years later to follow the numbers it produced is indefensible.

Today, the answer of appropriate funding levels must come from two avenues despite limitations in assessing both areas: risk and target capabilities assessments at the state and local level, followed by a policy decision at the national level as to what is the long term federal responsibility to assist financially in driving down terrorism risk through enhanced state and local capability.

Some states and localities, such as the San Francisco Bay Area, are moving aggressively in the direction of using data by conducting annual risk assessments and follow-on capability assessments based on those capabilities most directly related to addressing the identified risks. The data is then rolled-up to update plans, including spending plans. This process must become institutionalized in each of the states and major urban areas across the country with involvement from DHS in order to help establish the appropriate national grant budget and individual allocations to states and local governments.

THE PURPOSE OF HOMELAND SECURITY GRANTS

From the start, the homeland security grants have largely been about building long term counter terrorism capacity through plans, equipment purchases, training and exercises and less about operations designed to thwart a specific terrorist plot. Over time, that has changed somewhat with specific percentages of certain grants, such as the UASI, eligible to fund overtime costs for security and investigative operations, as well as for hiring intelligence analysts that support intelligence fusion centers.

It is in the area of operations that New York City in particular sees much of its greatest expense in securing the city. DHS and Congress should re-evaluate whether the limits on such expenses should be raised for New York City and possibly other jurisdictions that can clearly demonstrate they are expending large sums of money for counter terrorism operations as opposed to general crime control.

While the line between crime and terrorism in the area of policing is not always a bright one, there are clear demarcation lines in some cases. In New York, the NYPD has two bureaus dedicated to terrorism prevention: the intelligence and counter terrorism bureaus with each being a good place to start in terms of additional federal funds or the loosening of restrictions on grant funds already awarded for the purpose of funding operations.

In addition to overtime costs are the costs associated with the straight-up hiring of officers. The NYPD has seen its ranks drop from just under 41,000 during 9/11 to roughly 34,500 today. While programs such as the Justice Department's COPS program are designed specifically for hiring officers, this may be an area that DHS and Congress should explore as well. In fact, in FY 07, DHS created a staffing pilot program that allowed UASI grant funds to be pay for regular time of full time counter terrorism personnel. The program was not continued into FY 08.

CITY VERSUS CITY

New York's homeland security needs have sometimes been pitted against other cities and states. However, the argument that New York can only be funded at the expense of other jurisdictions has always been a false choice. New York can receive enormous amounts of funding without having to cut off other at risk parts of the country. At $207 million, New York's 2005 UASI allocation remains the largest the city has ever received, while 42 other jurisdictions also received significant funding that year ranging from $45 million for Chicago to $24 million for Dallas/Fort Worth and $8.7 million for Denver, etc. While New York is the number one target it is by no means the only target and resource allocations must reflect that.

To help avoid pitting New York against the rest of the country, Congress and the Administration should fully fund the UASI program at its authorized levels through FY 2012 as they build out a more robust process for determining what the national level of funding should be beyond that year. For example, in FY 2010, the federal government appropriated $832,520,000 for UASI despite an authorization level of $1,050,000,000. For FY 2011, the authorization amount is $1,150,000,000 with the Administration asking for $1.1 billion, $200 million of which has been designated for security at terrorist trials, leaving roughly the same amount as was appropriated in FY 2010. Rather than earmarking those $200 million for terror trials, those funds should be blended into the larger pot of funds with an eye towards increasing the allocations for high risk jurisdictions such as New York, the San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, etc.

CONCLUSION

The threat to New York City is simply different than any other jurisdiction in the U.S. The city's risk profile is unlikely to change over the next decade. Just over nine years since 9/11 it is time for the federal government to re-examine its role in funding state and local homeland security efforts in general and New York City's in particular. The events of May 1, 2010 in Times Square are a reminder that when it comes to homeland security much of it occurs at the local and state level even if it is a national effort. As part of our federal system, a critical element of federal power in protecting the homeland is providing states and localities with the resources they need to help achieve government's first priority: protecting the nation from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Nowhere is this more relevant than in New York City.
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