The Department of Homeland Security announced last week that it is cutting New York City’s funding for terrorism prevention programs. In the coming year, the city and state of New York will receive 25% less for port security and 27% less for transit security programs.
The announcement came less than two weeks after an American citizen, Faisal Shahzad, attempted and failed to set off a car bomb rigged with propane, fertilizer and gasoline on a busy Saturday evening in New York’s Times Square.
The decision has New York Republican lawmakers and candidates in an uproar and they are lashing out at the Obama Administration and their Democratic opponents.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio released a statement calling the cuts an “insult” and called on President Obama to immediately restore the money. Mr. Lazio told HUMAN EVENTS that the decision showed that the administration does not have its priorities in order.
“Governing is about making choices. Somehow President Obama can manage to support an $800 billion stimulus program, but can’t find the money to help New York defend itself against terrorism?” Lazio said. “New York is the epicenter of terrorism in America. It is appalling and outrageous that the administration would allow this funding to be reduced in aftermath of the attempted bombing in Times Square. New York is in the crosshairs. Terrorists plan to come to New York and murder as many people as possible. What is the administration going to do? Divert more money for some kind of pork barrel project—for some fire truck somewhere? It’s an example of this administration’s misguided priorities.”
Lazio also saw a link between the decision to cut terror prevention funding for New York and the Obama Administration’s efforts to hold a federal civilian trial for the mastermind of the September 11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, blocks from the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan.
“This decision should be seen in concert with decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the terrorist mastermind, in a civilian courtroom in the shadow of worst terror attack in American history. I don’t know what the administration is thinking. I don’t know what their values are. But I do know that they are sending signals to the terrorists that can be seen as equivocating. In this war on terror, we have to be resolute, unambiguous, and sometimes even brutal,” he said.
Long Island Republican Peter King, the ranking member on the House Homeland Security Committee, called the administration’s decision, “dangerous and unconscionable.”
“We urge them to reconsider this decision,” King said. “Instead of distributing funding all over the country, they should focus their attention where the greatest threat exists, right here in New York.”
The cuts could become an issue in campaigns at the state level, as well, as Lazio used them to put pressure on the expected Democratic gubernatorial nominee, New York Atty. Gen. Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo, who is widely expected to run and holds a comfortable lead in opinion polls on the race, has yet to comment on the cuts, or on the administration’s proposal to try the 9/11 co-conspirators in New York City. A check of Cuomo’s campaign website—which is geared toward the attorney general’s race—showed that the site had not been updated since early February.
Lazio pilloried Cuomo for refusing to take a stand on issues important to New York, particularly the anti-terrorism cuts.
“It is an embarrassment that Andrew Cuomo, as the chief law enforcement officer in New York, is not speaking up,” Lazio said. “By his silence he is supporting treating terrorists as common criminals. Once again his silence deafening in terms of his criticizing the administration and demanding a reversal of this decision. Clearly Andrew Cuomo is more concerned about what Nancy Pelosi thinks and what Barack Obama thinks than what the people of New York think.”
The White House responded to the widespread criticism, saying that funding to the city’s terrorism prevention programs has actually increased, if grants awarded under the stimulus bill are included. “When all federal funding is totaled, New York City has received a net increase of $47 million for port and transit security over the previous year’s budget,” White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said. “Those who suggest otherwise are not counting the more than $100 million in port and transit security grants for NYC from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.”
But that explanation did not satisfy the Lazio campaign. Spokesman Barney Keller called it a, “desperate, last-minute explanation for an irresponsible decision”—pointing out that unlike the stimulus funding, the threat of terrorist attacks will not expire at the end of the year. “Stimulus money is a one-time payment, while New York faces a systemic threat that will continue as long as terrorists want to attack America,” Keller said.
President Obama was in New York on Thursday to meet the police officers that tracked and arrested Shazad a little more than two days after his car bomb failed to detonate. “The country is proud of you, I know the mayor and the [police] commissioner are proud of you. The President is proud of you,” Obama reportedly told the NYPD.
No doubt the officers appreciated that recognition. New York’s Republicans are calling on the President to back his appreciative words with the funds necessary for the officers to continue doing their jobs.