Bush Shortchanging New York On Homeland Security

From port security to funding for first responders and police, President Bush and the Republican Party have repeatedly shortchanged the nation's vital security needs.

The Republicans chose New York City for their convention to provide a convenient backdrop for their message about the president’s stewardship of the war on terror. In fact, New York City is a perfect setting to demonstrate all the problems with the Bush approach to homeland security. From port security to funding for first responders and police, President Bush and the Republican Party have repeatedly shortchanged the nation’s vital security needs. Nowhere is this more glaring than New York City.

After the national wake up call of 9/11, Congress and the president rallied to play catch-up with billions of dollars in aid to states for homeland security. But, in a decision that was either boneheaded or politically ingenious, they distributed the money in a formula that treated all states the same. So Dick Cheney’s home state of Wyoming received $38 per capita while New York received only $5.

Even when the Bush administration and the Republican Congress had been made the stuff of Jay Leno monologues for allocating more money per capita to protect cows than the United Nations, they screwed up again. Congress created a new high-density, high-threat grant program to dedicate funding to high-rise cities like New York, Washington and Los Angeles.  Problem solved? Not in George W. Bush and Tom Delay’s America. Suddenly, more and more cities were lobbying to be included on the list. And, sure as you can say “pork barrel,” the list grew, and the cities that needed the most got less.

Perhaps most amazing is that even with all the new funds for anti-terror initiatives, cities large and small actually received less federal help for crime and terrorism than before 9/11. That is because the most successful and widely used anti-crime program in American history – the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program – was virtually eliminated by the Bush administration. Police commissioners, town sheriffs and national police groups have all praised the COPS program, which put 100,000 police on the streets to bring officers back into the communities they patrol. Heck, even John Ashcroft said, “The COPS program has been a miraculous sort of success. It’s one of those things that Congress hopes will happen when it sets up a program.” Yet, funding for COPS has fallen from $718 million in 2000 to $482 million in 2004. When Tom Ridge said homeland security beings in our hometowns, wasn’t he talking about our COPS? Our GOP friends will be safe in New York City, but it will be in spite of Bush, not because of him.

Well, at least we solved the problems at our airports and ports, right? Wrong. Again, the Bush administration is all hat and no cattle (as they say in the well-protected state of Wyoming). Seven million cargo containers arrive in U.S. ports each year, but as few as 2 percent of those are screened. Disturbingly, the CIA has reported that “The United States is more likely to be attacked with a weapon of mass destruction smuggled into the country aboard a ship than one delivered by a ballistic missile.”  Yet, Bush’s 2005 budget calls for $50 million for port security grants, down from $200 million in his 2004 budget.

They fought the creation of a homeland security department. They fought the creation of the 9/11 Commission. They slashed anti-terror and crime programs. They refused to plug the holes in port and airline security. Now they want to have a convention that focuses on homeland security. I have three words for President Bush and his Republican allies: bring it on.

Anthony D. Weiner represents the ninth congressional district of New York in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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