Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

June 22, 2006

House holds hearing on homeland security grants

Filed under: Congress and HLS,State and Local HLS — by Christian Beckner on June 22, 2006

The House Homeland Security Committee held a hearing yesterday on the state & local grant issue. The prepared statements by NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg, DC mayor Tony Williams, and DHS Under Secretary George Foresman are available on the committee website, at the preceding links. GovExec provides a good summary of the hearing:

The District of Columbia’s Democratic Mayor Anthony Williams and New York City’s Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged committee members to examine the funding formula the department used to make grant awards. They both said they support the department’s strategy of using a risk-based approach to make grant awards.

But Bloomberg said the process is “fundamentally broken” and should be reassessed by Congress. “The application process should not be a test for who can write the best college term paper for their class,” Bloomberg said.

Both mayors said another problem involves the department’s preference for financing technology and equipment over personnel and overtime. “The world is not what you see on CSI,” Bloomberg said, referring to the popular television show where investigators use technology to solve crimes. “It is as personal a business as anybody can find.”

Williams added, “I think that technology gets overbilled.” Williams and Bloomberg also said that cities should be given multiyear funding streams in the grants process. King added he plans to meet with Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairwoman Susan Collins, R-Maine, Thursday in an effort to find agreement on legislation that would overhaul the department’s funding formula.

This last sentence is particulary interesting. The House and Senate have sparred in the past two years over the framework for homeland security grant distribution, with the House favoring a more risk-based approach and the Senate trying to preserve mandatory state allocations. It’s possible that they could cut a deal that tilts the urban area risk formula more strongly in favor of the super high-risk cities, in exchange for preserving the 0.75% minimums in the state grant program.

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