- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Homeland Security officials yesterday announced $450 million in security funding for ports, transit systems, and chemical and nuclear plants and said they avoided a “willy-nilly approach” in earmarking the funds to ensure money won’t be wasted.

The funding is an increase of $46 million over last year’s amount and targets cities most at risk of terrorist attacks, including Washington and New York.

Previous grants were distributed with “very little guidance,” Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said during the announcement.

“Predictably, we had a rash of stories … about communities that spent money on leather jackets or gym equipment or things of that sort,” Mr. Chertoff said.

“And so, to move away from that kind of willy-nilly approach, we have put in place a risk-driven allocation of eligibility,” he said. “We’re investing resources where risk is greatest and where the funds will have the most significant impact.”

The grant process also was widely criticized in June after funding was slashed 40 percent for Washington and New York and increased for lower-risk Midwestern cities.

The bulk of the funding, more than $200 million, will go toward port security, and more than $171 million will be spent on transit systems. Bus security funding topped nearly $12 million, as did trucking security, and $48 million has been earmarked for buffer-zone protection.

Cities and states must submit detailed plans on how the money will be spent before receiving the funding.

The National Capital Region will receive up to $18 million for transit security, the second largest grant awarded. The New York and New Jersey region received the largest grant: $61 million.

More than $8 million has been incorporated this year for Amtrak security enhancements.

The Norfolk area was included in a second tier of nearly 30 cities that will compete for $14 million in grants for transit security.

Port security grants went to the New York area ($27 million), New Orleans ($17 million), Houston ($16 million), Los Angeles ($15 million), Puget Sound, Wash., ($12 million), San Francisco Bay area ($11 million), Delaware Bay ($11 million), and Port-Arthur/Beaumont, Texas ($11 million).

Baltimore and Hampton Roads, Va., will compete with 15 cities in a second tier of funding, amounting to $40 million.

Washington will receive up to $1.5 million for buffer-zone protection, and Maryland and Virginia will pick up $770,000 each. That grant covers protection for financial institutions, chemical facilities, nuclear and electrical power plants, dams and stadiums.

States that received buffer-zone grants in previous years but were dropped this year include Alaska, Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and the Virgin Islands.

Overall, the Homeland Security Department will award $1.7 billion in grants for counterterrorism efforts this year.

Mr. Chertoff said that previous questionable spending was not fraud, but that grant requirements “were defined so broadly and so generally that anything that could be tied to homeland security, in theory, was eligible.”

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