On Capitol Hill, Mayor Bemoans Anti-Terror Cuts

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The New York Sun

WASHINGTON – Mayor Bloomberg softened his stance against Congress yesterday and instead aimed his disappointment at the Bush administration for the cuts in the city’s anti-terrorism funding.

Mr. Bloomberg used a two-hour hearing on Capitol Hill to criticize the Department of Homeland Security’s “dysfunctional bureaucratic logic,” which he said ignored New York’s obvious status as a terrorist target. He also pressed Congress to step in and reverse the $83 million cut, which brings the city’s antiterrorism funding down by 40%, to $124.5 million for the year.

“Is this the spirit of high-threat allocation? No,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “Instead it makes the program the exact kind of political pork it was specifically designed to avoid.”

Mr. Bloomberg’s complaints about the Bush administration occurred just two days after he thanked President Bush for supporting the city’s efforts during a brief conversation at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

After his conversation with Mr. Bush, the mayor told reporters: “The real problem is that with Congress, decisions don’t get made based on rational thought and analysis. They get made on partisan politics, where everybody feels obliged to bring home part of every pot of money for constituents.”

When asked after the hearing whether he was shifting blame, Mr. Bloomberg said: “The objective is not to affix blame. The objective is to fix the system so that this country is safe going forward.”

Mr. Bloomberg’s trip to Washington was his most forceful plea to date for increased homeland security funds. It was also one of about a half-dozen visits he has made to the nation’s capital since taking office, and it will undoubtedly give him another day of national headlines at a time when some observers are speculating he has his eye on the White House.

Mr. Bloomberg told members of the House Committee on Homeland Security that the city was being penalized because it proposed using the money to pay for personnel, not the high-tech equipment the Department of Homeland Security favors. He didn’t have to do much convincing, as almost all of those at the hearing agreed and prodded him for more details.

The secretary of homeland security, Michael Chertoff, has defended the allocation by arguing that New York still receives a hefty percent of all of the $757 million pot and that other, smaller cities now need money to get security programs going. He also has pointed out that the larger pot was reduced by 14% – a decision made by Congress – so there was less money to go around.

The cut was met with rage from Republicans and Democrats in the New York congressional delegation. They have painted homeland security as incompetent for listing New York as having no national icons, classifying the Empire State Building as an ordinary office building, and referring to the Brooklyn Bridge simply as “a bridge.”

The chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, Peter King, the Long Island Republican who called for yesterday’s hearing, said Mr. Chertoff’s actions are “inexcusable” and that it is getting harder to defend him. He said the move was a “stab in the back” to New York.

Mr. King, a Bush supporter, is scheduled to meet with Senator Collins, chairwoman of the Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, today to discuss partnering on legislation that further ensures funds be given out based on risk – a formula the department says it used this time.

Mr. King cited a “lingering resentment” of New York City at the Department of Homeland Security that traces back to a clash in October over a threat to the subway system as one of the factors that may have come into play.

Mr. Bloomberg testified at yesterday’s hearing – titled “DHS Terrorism Preparedness Grants: Risk-Based or Guess Work?” – with the police commissioner, Raymond Kelly, the mayor of Washington, D.C., Anthony Williams, and that city’s chief of police, Charles Ramsey.

Messrs. Bloomberg and Williams both said it is unfair to penalize cities that have real targets just because their applications are deemed unsatisfactory. “This is not competition of who gets the highest score on the SATs,” Mr. Bloomberg said. He said all cities have “critical infrastructure,” but not all of those sites are targets.

The mayor has denied to reporters that he wants to run for president. If he does decide to run, the recent glut of national exposure, including the coverage he got last week at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conference in Atlanta, can only raise his profile.

Mr. Kelly said the city has put its plan for a so-called “ring of steel,” a camera surveillance system in Lower Manhattan, on hold because of the latest cut.

Few expect the hearing to prompt Homeland Security to re-jigger this year’s grants, but Mr. King said building up pressure is a must. He said if the agency does not increase the grant money, he would try to get money from another funding stream.

The New York Sun

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