Half-truth from Homeland Security boss Janet Napolitano could mean loss of millions for New YorkBy Michael Mcauliff
May 25, 2010
WASHINGTON - When Homeland Security boss Janet Napolitano declared New York hadn't spent $275 million in anti-terror cash since 2006, she told only half the story, lawmakers and security officials say.
And that could hurt New York.
"What I suspect you're seeing here is they're trying to find an excuse to shovel the money somewhere else," said Ivan Eland, of the Center on Peace and Liberty, a think tank.
According to spending data obtained by the Daily News, the vast majority of the cash Napolitano is talking about wasn't released until late 2008, and much of the older unspent money is budgeted for ongoing projects.
"They are three-year grant periods," said a state official who felt blindsided by Napolitano.
"There's no expectation that the money should be out the door in six months. And if it was, it'd be irresponsible."
Even for projects where the state has drawn nothing, it has laid out its own cash in many cases, and local officials argue that contracting and planning is well underway for nearly all projects.
They do admit to some trouble spots, such as a complicated $11 million New Jersey Transit security effort funded in 2007 which has drawn down zero federal dollars.
Federal officials insist Napolitano in a May 14 letter was just trying to figure out how to speed up New York's projects, not casting aspersions on local officials.
Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.) disagreed. "What they did...was not just a cheap shot, it gave a totally false impression, and they knew what they were doing," said King, the top Republican on the Homeland Security Committee. "They were playing a game here."
King's fear is that although New York got a nice boost with stimulus funding in 2009, 25% cuts to port and transit programs in 2010 could become permanent - especially if other lawmakers think New York is sitting on cash.
Eland said King should worry.
"It gives an excuse," Eland said. "If an agency doesn't spend the money, you don't get it the next year....They say we can give this money to some other congressional district. This is a universal principle in Congress."
A recent study found New York gets just 30% of homeland security money, but should get up to 49%, based on the threat.
"That's probably understating it," said Eland. "If you look at actual attempts and plots, nearly all are aimed at New York....New York is the mecca for Islamist terrorism."