In face of criticism, Chertoff to alter grant distribution
DHS came under heated congressional fire last year when it cut urban area funding to the New York City and Washington, D.C., regions by about 40 percent.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced Friday his department is fine-tuning how it will distribute almost $1.7 billion in homeland security grants to states and urban areas.
The department plans to award the grants this summer under five programs, the largest of which are the urban areas security initiative and the state homeland security grant program. The department came under heated congressional fire last year when it cut urban area funding to the New York City and Washington, D.C., regions by about 40 percent.
In the months that followed, the department's chief of grants and training quit and officials re-worked the grants process. Chertoff acknowledged late last year that the department was too focused on "bean counting" and pledged to make changes.
"The bottom line is that this is not just about mathematics and getting a lot of statistics and doing a lot of mathematical operations," Chertoff said Friday. "It's about keeping sight of the big picture. And the big picture is worrying about how do we protect the most people from the greatest risks most of the time. This year's guidance, hopefully, provides greater transparency and better justification to the American people."
Under the revamped process, Homeland Security will work with grant applicants to fine-tune their funding requests.
"By getting the grant guidance out early in the year, we're going to have the opportunity to work with communities, based on their submissions, to have a back-and-forth or a give-and-take to allow them to make revisions so that they can maximize the use to which they put the funds that they may be receiving under these programs," Chertoff said.
Another change would allow the highest-risk urban areas to use up to 25 percent of urban areas security initiative grants to cover personnel costs related to counterterrorism. But like last year, grant applications will be reviewed by more than 100 national experts on homeland security drawn from federal agencies and state and local communities.
In total, the department plans to allocate about $750 million under the UASI program, which is slightly more than last year, and about $510 million under the state homeland security grant program, which is slightly less than last year. The department will also allocate about $365 million under the law enforcement terrorism prevention program; $32 million under the metropolitan medical response system program; and $14 million under the Citizen Corps program.