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Shifts terror threat preparation to urban areas { January 4 2006 }

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   http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2006/01/04/us_shifts_allocation_of_antiterror_funds/

http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2006/01/04/us_shifts_allocation_of_antiterror_funds/

US shifts allocation of antiterror funds
High-risk cities, including Boston, will share $765m
By Charlie Savage, Globe Staff | January 4, 2006

WASHINGTON -- Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff yesterday announced that the federal government would give greater preference to high-risk urban areas -- including metropolitan Boston -- in handing out funds to help cities buy equipment and train emergency workers for possible terrorist attacks.

Chertoff's announcement marked the opening of the application process for a share in some $765 million in local preparedness grants for 2006. The pool of grant money is down from $855 million in 2005, when the Boston area received $26 million, according to congressional figures.

The smaller pool of available money does not necessarily mean that Boston will receive less money than last year for such priorities as buying chemical suits and training rescue workers. The department limited the list of areas eligible for the money to large cities, and Chertoff said officials will take into consideration the likelihood of a terrorist attack in distributing the grants.

''The department is investing federal funding into our communities facing the greatest risk and demonstrating the greatest need in order to receive the highest return in our nation's security," Chertoff said. ''We will continue to champion funding on the basis of risk and need, and we urge Congress to do the same to ensure that our finite resources are allocated and prioritized successfully."

The department trimmed the list of cities eligible for grants for new projects from 50 to 35. Eleven of the cities being dropped from the list, including Tampa, Baton Rouge, and Buffalo, remain eligible only for funds to complete projects in progress. Greater Boston is among the 35 that will continue to receive grants for new projects.

''We were chosen to apply, and we're hopeful that these new guidelines will have a positive impact on our homeland security efforts in Boston and help enhance the security of both the city and nation," said Seth Gitell, press secretary for Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston.

Chertoff's announcement that he was giving greater priority to areas at higher risk drew cautious praise from lawmakers from larger cities, who called it a positive sign but said they'd reserve judgment until the grants were announced.

Representative Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Malden, said he was pleased the Boston area made the list, citing Logan International Airport and the liquefied natural gas terminal in Everett as potential terrorist targets.

''While the Boston area's eligibility for this funding is welcome news, it is still unclear how changes to the funding criteria will affect the level of funding our region receives," Markey said. ''I will be closely watching the application process to ensure that the Boston area receives the funding it needs under this program."

Congress created the Urban Areas Security Initiative grant program to provide financial assistance directly to cities after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It has distributed $2.1 billion in grants since 2003. Initially, only seven cities were eligible for the funds, and Boston didn't make the cut.

But under pressure from lawmakers around the country, the list of eligible cities soared to 50. Greater Boston, which was among the areas added to the program, received $16.72 million in 2003, $19 million in 2004, and $26 million in 2005, according to Markey's office.

Homeland security specialists and the Sept. 11 Commission have criticized the government, saying that it has spread grant money too thinly rather than concentrating on big cities where the risk of a catastrophic attack is greatest.

Under the eligibility list announced by Chertoff yesterday, cities in 23 states and the District of Columbia will be eligible for funds.

''This is an important step forward, but the plain fact is that our cities and towns continue to bear far too much of the burden for homeland security," said Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts. ''The federal government simply isn't providing enough leadership or resources, and we need to get much more serious about the very real threats our citizens face every day."

Globe reporter Andrea Estes contributed to this article.



Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company



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