Senator Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., incoming Chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, criticized the Fiscal Year 2007 guidelines announced Friday for the homeland security grant program, including the Urban Area Security Initiative grants for cities at high-risk of a terrorist attack. Once again, the guidelines set by the Department of Homeland Security have changed. This year, DHS has eliminated population density as a factor to be considered in distributing state homeland security grants, likely leading to a less accurate way of getting resources to the areas of the country most at risk.
“The Department of Homeland Security has issued guidelines for state homeland security grants today that are ill-advised, at best,” Lieberman said. “I am disappointed by the Department’s inexplicable decision to change its existing practice of taking each state’s population density into account when assessing risk. This leaves densely populated areas, like Connecticut, dangerously vulnerable to terrorist attack without the ability to prepare adequately. The changes announced today show little promise for improving the distribution of these critical homeland security grants and bring further confusion to the process for states and localities applying for these funds.”
“As Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, I am committed to passing a permanent funding formula so that the guidelines are not arbitrarily rewritten each year. A fair and consistent funding formula is long overdue, and I will make this a priority in the new Congress.”
Population density has traditionally been considered an important risk factor for terrorism because densely populated areas present more attractive targets for terrorists and because the consequences of an attack on a densely populated area are likely to be greater. In addition to eliminating population density as a risk factor, DHS revealed that it is using a different method to calculate the minimum amount all states are guaranteed under the state homeland security grant program, which will potentially lead to significant decreases in funding for many states.
Lieberman also expressed disappointment at DHS’s decision not to make any Connecticut city eligible to apply for UASI grants. New Haven received a UASI grant in 2004, but no Connecticut cities have been deemed eligible for UASI grants since then.