Arizona officials are threatening to withdraw from the nation’s largest-ever counterterrorism drill, telling the federal government to look elsewhere for a host if it doesn’t bring enough cash, reports the Arizona Republic. The Phoenix metropolitan area is scheduled to play home to the massive 10-day event, called TOPOFF, in October 2007. But a battle over politics, terrorism, and money may change that. “If they want us to participate in the federal exercise, they need to pay for it,” Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon said. The overall excercise costs $22 million; Phoenix has estimated that it might have to pay $5 million in overtime and other costs–a figure disputed by federal officials.
The dispute has laid bare the often rocky relationship between the federal government and its state and local counterparts, says the Republic. And it has shown the crucial role of money and partisan interests in the struggle to improve homeland security. Arizona’s take of federal homeland security dollars has fallen by nearly one-third since 2003. U.S. Homeland Security Department spokesman Marc Short suggested the city and state are raising the issue because of anger over a recent decision that could leave Phoenix off a list of 35 major cities that receive priority for federal funding under the Urban Area Security Initiative. The city received $10 million through the program during fiscal 2005. “Unfortunately, the citizens of Phoenix and the citizens of Arizona are being caught as pawns in a political game with UASI funding,” Short said.