Bush budget shows port security grant cuts
West Coast congressional legislators blasted the Bush administration's proposed 2009 federal budget over spending on homeland security grants at the nation's ports Monday.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., claims the White House cut nearly $750 million from the federal State Homeland Security Grants program, $225 million from Port Security grants, and $190 million from the Rail and Public Transport Security grants program. All told, Congressional Democrats accuse the White House of trying to cut more than $2 billion from state and local homeland security programs.
'Instead of scaring the American people, we need to protect them with funding for homeland security grants, port security and rail security,' Boxer said.
Speaking last week on the White House's proposed $3.1 trillion budget, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said, “port security grant funding this year is up $76 million over last year, for a total of almost $390 million.”
However, when the full budget was released by the White House Monday, it contained several appendix items that countered Chertoff's claims. Budget appendix items typically contain detailed information about individual programs within the budget. The new budget's appendix detail $210 million for 'Port Security Grants.'
The appendix also details funding for several other security grant programs that the nation's ports can draw on for funding. Chertoff claimed that spending on the State Homeland Security Grants program would increase by $353 million to nearly $863 million. The budget appendix, however, states that the program will receive only $200 million for fiscal 2009.
Chertoff said the Urban Area Security Initiative program increased $35 million to $781.6 million. 'This is a particularly important risk-based program because it's focused on the high-threat, high-risk, high-density urban areas,' he said.
The budget appendix said the UASI program is to receive $825 million, about $50 million more than Chertoff claimed. However, new rules for 2009 mandate that 25 percent of UASI funds go toward local law enforcement terrorism prevention. This essentially removes $206 million that might be available to ports directly, representing a cut of total UASI port-available funds for 2009 of $121 million.
West Coast ports will, Chertoff said, have more funds coming their way in 2009.
San Francisco Bay will see a $14 million increase in port security grant funding to $25.5 million. Los Angeles-Long Beach will have a 135 percent increase to $26.3 million. And port security grants to the Puget Sound ports in the Pacific Northwest will increase from $17.3 million to $26 million.
UASI funds for 2009 will again be split into first and second tier city-areas. Seven first tier city-areas — Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles-Long Beach, Washington, Jersey City-Newark, New York, and the San Francisco Bay — will receive 55 percent of the funds available under the UASI program. An additional 53 second tier city-areas eligible for DHS funds will split the remaining 45 percent.
Democrats vowed to quickly reshape the budget and promised it would not be a repeat of the last budget, which saw the White House force Democrats to accept spending cuts on many programs.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said: 'We are not going to be held hostage to the unreasonableness of this president.'
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said: 'Democrats reject the misplaced priorities of the president's budget, which once again is a step backwards for our nation.'
In the Pacific Northwest, Sen. Petty Murray, D-Wash., called on the White House to 'cut the rhetoric, not the funding we need to protect our ports.' ' Keith Higginbotham