Slashed funding for local counterterrorism and other security measures in the White House’s budget proposal is a “punch in the gut” that couldn’t come at a worse time, Sen. Chuck Schumer said Sunday.
From across the aisle, Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) agreed the pot shouldn’t be “decimated” with the threat of the Islamic State looming.
President Barack Obama’s fiscal blueprint recommended funding the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Urban Area Security Initiative grant program — which goes toward NYPD counterterrorism training, FDNY tiered-response training and other first-responder preparedness — with $330 million for the upcoming fiscal year, compared with $600 million in the current year.
“This year, bureaucrats got through a very serious mistake that must, must, must be reversed,” Schumer (D-N.Y.) said at a Manhattan news conference. “Do your homework, bureaucrats, on New York City, on the NYPD, on all the groups on Long Island that have gotten this money. . . . The dollars can save lives.”
The senator said it’s “not an accident” that the region hasn’t seen a successful terror attack since 9/11.
King said security funding across the board was reduced in the budget proposal.
“Here’s time when ISIS has never been more of a threat, when al-Qaida has never been more of a threat,” said King, a former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
He said he would fight alongside Schumer for restoration of the funds.
“This is not a Republican or a Democratic issue,” King said. “In many ways, it’s an issue of life or death.”
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton called the initiative the “lifeblood” for antiterrorism funding in major American cities.
Among those urban areas, New York City is statically the No. 1 terror target, and the “terrorism threat is more complex and layered than any time since 9/11,” Bratton said in a statement.
“We would hope, in the aftermath of a series of recent plots against New York, as well as the attacks from Paris to San Bernardino, that any such cuts be reconsidered,” he added.
An official with the U.S. Office of Management and Budget said Sunday night the Obama administration has no higher priority than keeping Americans safe.
The grant program was restructured recently for efficiency, and the new funding level is expected to meet demand, the official said, adding that the proposed budget includes $139 million in other regional and state grants to help prepare and respond to complex terror threats.
Obama released his $4.2 trillion spending plan Tuesday. It requests $40.6 billion in net discretionary funding for the Department of Homeland Security, including $2 billion in grants for state and local governments for terrorism and other catastrophes.
Aside from the Urban Area Security Initiative reductions, the budget cuts state homeland security grants to $200 million from $467 million, port security grants to $93 million from $100 million and transit security grants to $85 million from $100 million.
Schumer said he didn’t get a “good explanation” from the administration on why the money would be withheld.
King said the impression he gets is that “because these programs are working, there’s no need to be giving more money — which makes no sense at all.”