The federal Department of Homeland Security will dole out $3 billion in counterterrorism grants next year to state and local agencies with far-fewer strings attached than in past years, in a concession to sharply tightening budgets at all levels of government, the Washington Post reports. The total amount mandated by Congress to go to states remains close to last year’s levels. Unlike in past years, DHS acted months earlier in setting specific amounts that will go to the states and the 62 designated high-risk cities.
The move responds to criticism from a Democratic Congress and restive state and local leaders. They have complained that the Bush administration has focused on terrorism at the expense of other law enforcement priorities, such as fighting drugs, gangs, and violent crime. The incoming Democratic administration will face hard funding choices as it tries to improve ties with state and local partners who must choose between keeping police officers on the beat; maintaining costly equipment, systems and supplies intended to respond to a terrorist attack; and other needs. An aide on the House Homeland Security Committee said, “There is no more room for folks from state and local government to complain. They got pretty much what they wanted.” DHS will allow spending up to 50 percent of homeland security grants for personnel, up from 25 percent; ease a 25 percent local-match requirement for rail, transit and port security aid; lift a three-year limit on funding for intelligence analysts in law enforcement “fusion” centers, which police chiefs nationwide have requested.