04-23-2008, 05:50 AM
Cities are put on Homeland Security list, which now totals 60.Reply
Austin and Round Rock are eligible to apply for millions in funding from the Homeland Security Department now that they have joined the list of cities considered at high risk of a terrorist attack.
Last year, the Homeland Security Department made 45 cities or regions eligible for a competitive counterterrorism grant program. This year, the list has been expanded to 60 areas that can apply for the nearly $782 million available, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said Thursday that the designation will allow the city to explore programs and technologies that could prevent or help respond to a terrorist attack.
"I really believe it will position us to be better prepared" in the event of a terrorist attack, Acevedo said. "It is a reminder that we have to be vigilant as a community."
The urban area grants are one of the Homeland Security Department's most popular and most debated programs. The department divides the regions at highest risk of a terrorist attack into two tiers. The seven highest-risk areas, which include Los Angeles, New York and Washington, will compete for about $430 million this year. The remaining 53 will compete for about $352 million. The department plans to release the list today.
The list has grown and shrunk in recent years, based on decisions that the department says are not the result of specific threats or concerns but that reflect an overall analysis of threat data.
Other regions added to the list this year are: Rochester and Syracuse, N.Y.; Baton Rouge, La.; Bridgeport, Stamford and Norwalk, Conn.; the Hartford, Conn., region; Louisville and Jefferson County in Kentucky and an adjoining area in Indiana; Nashville, Davidson County and Murfreesboro, Tenn.; Richmond, Va.; Riverside, San Bernardino and Ontario, Calif.; Salt Lake City; San Juan, Caguas and Guaynabo, Puerto Rico; and Toledo, Ohio.
Every year, the list pleases and angers elected officials based on which cities are added or dropped. This year, Congress insisted that the department include more cities.
Mayors of the biggest U.S. cities have long claimed that the list should be pared down to funnel more dollars to those places at greatest risk, and mayors of midsize cities insist that terrorists don't ignore them and neither should the government.
In Austin, nonprofit organizations have previously raised concerns that they were unfairly denied opportunities to apply for security funding because Austin was not considered a dangerous city. It was unclear Thursday whether the new designation would make them eligible for grants.
Also today, the department is expected to announce transit and port security grants. New York and New Jersey are set to receive $43 million in port security grants, the most of any port area across the country. The Los Angeles-Long Beach port will get $36 million, and Houston and Galveston will get about $31 million.
On Monday, President Bush is expected to ask, as part of his final budget request, for a total of $2.2 billion to help states and cities protect against terrorist attacks.
Bush is also expected to ask for more than $12 billion for border security and immigration enforcement, a 19 percent increase over what Congress appropriated for these programs in 2008.
This money would go toward building a fence along the southwest border and enforcing immigration laws, such as deporting illegal immigrants and holding businesses accountable for hiring people who are in the country illegally.
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