Mayors vent over changes in homeland security grants

A gathering of frustrated U.S. mayors grilled Bush administration officials Friday about federal homeland security initiatives.

The mayors told officials that recent changes in homeland security grants were inflexible, confusing and cumbersome.

"That's our problem in dealing with you," said Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, a Democrat who added that the amounts of cuts in homeland security grants over recent years would result in the grant programs being "eliminated by 2009."

The mayors also called on Homeland Security officials to increase funding for communication equipment, transit and rail systems, ports, air cargo screening, among other items.

Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff earlier this month announced that the urban area grant initiative would move from funding for the 50 largest cities to a regional approach.

The change triggered an outcry from governors and mayors who said they would have to work across jurisdictions in a tight time frame to apply for the funding. On Friday the mayors called on the Homeland Security Department to clearly outline the administration's priorities for the money so city officials can better compete for limited dollars.

Tracy Henke, the department's executive director of grants and training, conceded that the department has yet to figure out how to measure preparedness, but said it was a priority for the department.

She also told the mayors that President Bush is not solely to blame for decreased spending, but that Congress shares the responsibility. She also vowed improved clarity and transparency for city and state officials before the March 2 deadline for funding applications.

Following the homeland security session, the U.S. Conference of Mayors heard sympathetic remarks from Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who said the Republican White House has made "wrong choices" on security issues.

"Wrong choices in Washington have left mayors with bigger burdens and unpaid bill," he said, contending that Democrats tried to increase funding levels for homeland security grants but were "rejected" last year.

The minority leader also criticized the administration for its decision to cut the National Guard, which state and local officials depend on for catastrophes.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.