Feds cut Hawaii's terror funds
A state military official says Hawaii is "one of the more safer states"
Hawaii will receive about $9 million less in counterterrorism funding from the Homeland Security Department this year because it is considered a low-risk area, the head of Hawaii's Department of Defense said.
Maj. Gen. Bob Lee, state adjutant general, who heads Hawaii's Army and Air National Guard, said yesterday that Hawaii will receive nearly $13 million in federal funding this year, compared with nearly $22 million last year.
The funding announced yesterday includes $4.5 million that the state will share with the four counties, and $3.3 million for law enforcement agencies.
The City and County of Honolulu, meanwhile, will receive $4.7 million. City officials had asked for $33 million.
That places Honolulu near the bottom of the $740 million in grants for 46 cities to prevent and respond to terror attacks. Federal officials said that figure is $125 million less than was available last year.
In the last round of federal funding, Honolulu received $6.45 million, which paid for new radios for the Fire Department; chemical protection suits for police, fire and ambulance personnel; and improvements in security for the city's water supply, sewage treatment plants and other infrastructure.
Lee said the reason for the drop in financial support is because the state is not considered a majority security risk.
Lee, who also doubles as head of the state Civil Defense Agency, said Homeland Security also changed the way it will allocate funds this year.
"In the past three years," Lee said, "funding for all states, whether they be a small one like Hawaii or a larger one like California, was on the same base line, and then a state's population was factored in. Now it is all threat-based."
Based on threats, Lee said, "Hawaii is on the bottom 25 -- one of the more safer states."
Gov. Linda Lingle, appearing on a radio talk show yesterday morning, said "the good news is that we are not seen as a place that will get hit."
Three of the cities on this year's list did not make the cut last year, but are now considered high-risk terror targets by the Homeland Security Department. They are Memphis, Tenn., and Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, Fla.
Asked whether Hawaii's drop in funds will affect the state's security operations, Lee said, "No, from the perspective of Homeland Security, because every day and every month we don't get hit only means we get stronger."
However, Lee acknowledged that "it will just mean that we're a bit slower in getting everything we hope to accomplish."
The two cities hit by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks also will receive fewer counterterrorism dollars.
Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Tracy Henke said the biggest share of the dollars still would go to the nation's largest cities, with New York taking the largest share: $124 million, down from $207 million in 2005. The nation's capital region, which encompasses Washington and its Maryland and Virginia suburbs, will receive $46 million, compared with $77.5 million last year.
Hurricane-ravaged New Orleans will receive half of what it got last year -- $4.6 million, down from $9.3 million -- although Homeland Security said the money was to help cities grapple with catastrophic disasters from Mother Nature and terrorists alike.
The cut was attacked by the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, who represents the New York suburbs and vowed to hit back at the department.
"It's absolutely indefensible; it's disgraceful. As far as I'm concerned, the Department of Homeland Security and the administration have declared war on New York," Rep. Peter King told the Associated Press.
"It's a knife in the back to New York, and I'm going to do everything I can to make them very sorry they made this decision," King said.
Until now the grants largely have been awarded based on cities' populations. Homeland Security still is weighing population as a factor in the grants, but it is mostly awarding the money based on a city's threat risk and how effectively the city will use the funds.
The grants for cities make up the largest chunk of the funding, and have always been the subject of fierce lobbying by local leaders and members of Congress.
The Associated Press and Star-Bulletin reporter Craig Gima contributed to this report.