Prime al Qaeda targets are located in urban areas on the coasts, but federal funds for protecting the U.S. against terrorist attacks are spread widely across the nation, with significant shares devoted to rural areas and small cities in the middle of the country, notes the Los Angeles Times. The program designed specifically for security in metropolitan areas at risk was shared among 50 cities last year. New York has seen its share of $800 million in security funds shrink from $222 million in 2003 to $62 million this year. Efforts to redirect more money to the most vulnerable sites have been stymied by Congress’ traditional method of winning support for spending initiatives: give every state and district a piece of the pie.
The latest information from Pakistan and concerns of the Sept. 11 commission about priorities have provided new impetus for focusing on the cities in the terrorists’ crosshairs. “I don’t think Congress can afford to go home without passing a formula that mandates funding for first responders be done on a threat-based standard,” said Rep. John E. Sweeney (R-N.Y.) The House committees with jurisdiction over domestic security have agreed – after months of wrangling –on a plan to apportion funds according to a new federal formula assessing vulnerability. Still, that bill ensured that each state would receive at least 0.025% of the money. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) said it was up to President Bush to ensure that cities like New York, Washington, and Los Angeles got more money. “There is no real pressure from the White House, so politics as usual takes over,” she told the Times.