NY pols seek more funds for explosives detectionBy THOMAS MAIER
May 4, 2010
Since 9/11, the New York City metro area has received about $2 billion in federal anti-terror funding, but the Times Square bombing attempt has New York officials calling for even more homeland security money to prevent another terrorist attack.
Sen. Charles Schumer on Monday called for "hundreds of millions of dollars" to be spent immediately on developing explosive detection devices and technology that, he said, could be installed at major bridges, tunnels, highway toll plazas and other key transportation hubs.
Schumer's proposal was just one of several new initiatives - including a stepped-up surveillance program in midtown Manhattan - that officials suggest could have helped detect an alleged bomber who left an explosives-packed SUV in Times Square Saturday night.
In seeking more help from the federal government, Saturday's terror scare "maybe will give us the opportunity" to increase anti-terror funding for several measures, said Rep. Peter King of Seaford, the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security subcommittee.
Among the anti-terror efforts both Schumer and King support are full funding for the "Securing the Cities" program to protect against makeshift nuclear devices.
For the past two years, the Obama administration has tried to eliminate the program's funding; officials say the $37 million in unspent funds will carry it through the year.
They also are pushing for money to improve security - including the installation of more surveillance cameras - in the Times Square area. That plan, based on a program under way in Lower Manhattan, could cost as much as $50 million, King said.
King also wants to "harden" transit tunnels under the Hudson and East River, and to focus on escape routes for passengers in the event of a disaster. That could cost as much as $100 million.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials didn't respond directly to Schumer and King's proposals. But in the past year, spokesman Matthew Chandler said, the DHS has paid out more than $250 million to New York City to fight terrorism and other security threats.
Other experts said Saturday's failed car bombing should prompt New York officials to call for more counterterrorism funding. But they said increased spending can only do so much to prevent such attacks.
"Are we spending enough? Probably not. Can you stop a random, isolated incident? No, I don't think so," said Joseph King, a professor at John Jay College of
Criminal Justice and a former U.S. Customs and Department of Homeland Security official who specialized in counterterrorism.
But Brian Jenkins, a Rand Corp. terror expert, said spending more money on high-tech devices like body-temperature scanners that can detect explosives underneath clothing probably are worth the investment. Since 9/11, Jenkins said, there have been about 125 deaths from eight terror attacks within civil aviation worldwide - but some 2,500 fatalities from more than a 1,000 local terror attacks using car bombs and other similar devices.
Jenkins said post-9/11 anti-terror technology has made significant strides in recent years. "The technology is there now and it's been tested," he said about the explosives detection devices.
With Tom Brune and Melanie Lefkowitz
Lower Manhattan Security Initiative.
When fully implemented, will include surveillance and hazard protection equipment at all access points to the area. License plate recognition systems and security cameras deployed at Wall Street, the World Financial Center, the Brooklyn Bridge and the World Trade Center site.
More cops on the street.
$35.9 million for 128 new officers in the New York Police Department to guard against threats to the city's transportation systems.
FDNY specialized units.
3,700 geographically dispersed responders get training and equipment for specialized operations.
Funding for 12 FBI-certified bomb squads statewide.
WHAT OFFICIALS ARE LOBBYING FOR
Full funding for theSecuring the Cities program.
Designed to protect against the threat of a makeshift nuclear weapon or "dirty bomb" radiologic dispersal device.
Expand Securing the Cities program.
Would explore better detection methods for explosive devices such as the one found in Times Square Saturday.
Expand the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative to midtown Manhattan.
Security cameras and license plate readers would record and track every vehicle moving between 34th and 59th Streets.