The Department of Homeland Security will award $3 billion in grants to fund projects that enhance counterterrorism and protective measures for transit, ports, chemical security and state planning and training programs, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Federal Emergency Management Agency Director David Paulison announced today.
The two largest programs receiving funding increases are the Homeland Security Grants Program, which will receive $1.69 billion, and the infrastructure protection program, which will receive $852.4 million.
The security grants program includes the highly sought after Urban Area Security Initiative program, which will receive a $35 million boost, for a total of $781.6 million.
Under the initiative, the six largest urban areas will receive 55 percent of the funds, and 53 other locations will receive the remaining 45 percent of the available funds. The six urban areas are New York City/Northern New Jersey, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles/Long Beach, the Washington, D.C., National Capital Region and San Francisco.
Last year was the first time New York and New Jersey were considered in the same lot for the grant funds, though each region had to submit a separate application and each received separate funds.
Chertoff said at the time that it was important to consider the areas in the same grouping because of the significant amount of shared infrastructure.
Today, Chertoff brushed off previous criticism of the grant program, saying the issue is not how much money each city or state gets year to year.
When funds to New York and Washington were cut in 2006, Chertoff was eviscerated in the New York tabloids with headlines of "Feds to City: Drop Dead" and editorials that demanded that President Bush fire the secretary.
Other significant funds include $153 million for transit security in the New York City/New Jersey area. Boston and Washington are also receiving almost double the money they received in previous years.
The D.C. area will receive $38.08 million for 2008 for transit security, up from $18 million in 2007, and Boston will receive $29.25 million, up from $15 million in 2007.
Overall, since 2002 Homeland Security has distributed $22.7 billion in grants for states, urban areas and transit authorities. But the department is always asked if the United States is any safer since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Chertoff said today that the funds were meant to help reduce risk and aid responders who would need to react to a disaster.
"We are continuing our focus, for example, on improvised explosive device deterrence, prevention and protection," he said. "And we are continuing to focus on threats to public transportation, critical infrastructure sites, things like chemical facilities, sea ports, power plants and dams."
Monday, Homeland Security and the Justice Department will release their fiscal year 2009 budgets, but Chertoff declined to address any specifics.
According to some officials, the Justice Department's budget might show increases for FBI counterterrorism programs but cuts in some domestic programs. It is unclear whether the overall budget will be higher or lower than it was this year.