WASHINGTON -- The Department of Homeland Security has notified more than 30 cities across the country that they are losing anti-terror funding from the federal government.
The department said Thursday that money for the Urban Areas Security Initiative grants has been cut by about $170 million as part of a larger budget cut that eliminated more than $780 million in grant money from the latest federal budget. The budget cuts mean that only 31 high-threat urban areas, including New York and Washington, will still receive grants this year.
Texas is taking the largest hit, with Austin, El Paso, and San Antonio no longer eligible to receive millions in funding through the Department of Homeland Security's Urban Areas Security Initiative grant program. Combined, the cities received more than $14.5 million in federal funding last year.
Rep. Peter King, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, praised the department for continuing to fund the New York City region at the same level -- about $151.5 million -- as in years past.
He said in a statement that the allocations "in this difficult fiscal climate" reflect his and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's "recognition that New York and Long Island remain the top target of al-Qaida and its affiliates and need continued federal funding."
New York and Washington were targets of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and have traditionally received the most attention, and money, from the federal government.
In other cities and regions, including in upstate New York, the news that millions of dollar would be lost was met Thursday with a vocal opposition.
"This is a glaring example of the real world impact on western New York of the extreme cuts the new House majority is focused on," said Rep. Brian Higgins, a New York Democrat who serves on the Border and Maritime Security and Counterterrorism and Intelligence subcommittees. "The budget is a statement of our national priorities. Keeping our border safe, protecting a region with a history of terrorist cell activities should top the list. Yet, we have people protecting big oil at the expense of national security and that is costing this community and could cost this nation dearly."
And the cuts come at a worrisome time for law enforcement. After the killing of Osama bin Laden, U.S. authorities have recovered evidence from his compound in Pakistan that the terror leader was encouraging his followers to target smaller U.S. cities in future attacks.
The grant program was launched in 2003 in response to security threats in the wake of the terrorist attacks. Initially the money was available only to New York City, Washington, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco, and Houston. But since 2008 more than 60 cities have been awarded the risk-based grants.
In Fiscal Year 2010, 54 smaller cities were eligible to split almost $310 million in funding. Ten larger, higher-risk cities, like New York and Washington, vied for about $525 million. Thirty cities in 23 states and Washington will now share more than $662 million dollars. The lion's share, about $540 million, will be split by the 10 largest cities.
Also included in the cities losing money are Providence, R.I., Baton Rouge and New Orleans, La., Tucson, Ariz., and Honolulu.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent and chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said Connecticut stands to lose about half of the Homeland Security money its cities have received in recent years.
He said Bridgeport and Hartford, which received a combined $5.5 million last year, are among the cities being cut from the program.
"I understand that everyone must sacrifice to bring our federal deficit under control," Lieberman said in a statement issued Wednesday. "But I do not support cutting the budget on the back of our national security, particularly since foreign and homegrown terrorists will continue to strike us at home."
Associated Press writer Ian MacDougall in Providence, R.I., Carolyn Thompson in Buffalo, NY and Beth Fouhy in New York City contributed to this report.
Alicia A. Caldwell be reached at http://twitter.com/acaldwellap.