Chertoff will announce on Tuesday which cities will receive part of $765 million in annual Urban Area Security Initiative grants. The program usually pits highly populated areas against rural regions.
In past years, the grants generally have gone to the nation’s 50 largest cities for terror-related security measures. This year, however, cities that risk being hit by a natural disaster or a health crisis would also be eligible, according to the documents.
“In light of several major new national planning priorities, which address such issues as pandemic influenza and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the allowable scope of (grant) activities (include) catastrophic events – provided that these activities also build capabilities that relate to terrorism,” according to a 203-page Homeland Security plan for state and local officials.
This is one program where I would argue that it’s a bad idea to make adjustments in response to Hurricane Katrina. The reason that the UASI grant program was established was to give cities at a high risk of terrorism the extra resources that they needed to deal with their large exposure to the threat. The UASI grant program was intended to counterbalance the baseline grant program that apportioned funds based on population and/or a fixed per-state minimum. If the UASI program becomes more of a general preparedness slush fund, then that could diminish the abilities of the real high-risk cities in the United States – NY, DC, LA, etc. – to carry out their critical counter-terrorism and preparedness activities.
This additional detail in the piece is also interesting:
In another shift, the cities will not know how much money they will receive when their eligibility is announced. Their grants will be determined later based on applications detailing how they will spend the money, officials said.
The key high-risk cities better have their act together to get ready to apply for these funds.
Update (1/2): The NYT story on the subject just hit the wires.
Update 2 (1/3): Here’s the list of cities. It appears to be the same cities as last year’s list, except for the fact that certain large metropolitan areas such as the SF Bay Area (which formerly had separate allocations for San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose) have been consolidated.
Update 3: Contrary to my last update, it appears that eleven cities have been technically zeroed out from UASI based on risk criteria but will still receive “sustainment funding” for FY 2006, which will disappear next year unless the cities meet the risk criteria. Those eleven cities are: Phoenix, Sacramento, San Diego, Tampa, Louisville, Baton Rouge, Omaha, Las Vegas, Buffalo, Toledo, and Oklahoma City. A lot of these make sense, but I’m surprised that some of these – such as Las Vegas – didn’t pass the “risk test.”