Kean: Senate Security-Fund Delay Is 'Obscene'

Chair of National Commission on Terrorist Attacks criticizes senators for slowing anti-terror money


But a homeland security expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation, James Carafano, said the Senate would easily pass a bill similar to the one that passed in the House if Ms. Collins and the ranking Democrat on the committee, Senator Lieberman, of Connecticut, would allow such a bill onto the floor for a vote. "If Lieberman and Collins don't want it to come out of the committee, it's not going to come out of the committee," Mr. Carafano said.

Mr. Lieberman's staff was also reluctant to put the senator on the phone. Two messages left with his press office on Wednesday were not returned. Contacted on Thursday, a spokeswoman for the former vice presidential candidate, Leslie Phillips, defended the Senate's proposal on the ground that calculating risk is not an exact science. Ms. Phillips chuckled twice when asked if Mr. Lieberman would have a few second to defend his position over the phone.

"Risk is an art, not a science," Ms. Phillips said. "Find me what a standard for risk is. Is New York at greater risk than Wyoming? Yes. Does New York get more money than Wyoming? Far more."

According to figures published by the Department of Homeland Security, eight states received more security grant money per capita in fiscal 2005 than New York: Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming. New York ($298.3 million) and California ($282.7 million) received far more money than any other state, but representatives of the two states say that's as it should be.

Mayor Bloomberg has been an outspoken critic of the Senate proposal. And as Mr. King and Ms. Collins prepare to negotiate next week, a spokesman for the mayor, Robert Lawson, said Mr. Bloomberg remains committed to a risk based allocation of funds.

"The mayor has long argued that Homeland Security funds must be allocated based on risk and not on political pork," Mr. Lawson said.

A Staten Island resident who sits on the board of directors of 9/11 Families for a Secure America," Mark Petrocelli, echoed Mr. Bloomberg. "It should be risk assessed," said Mr. Petrocelli, who lost a son-in-law on September 11. "It's New York, Chicago, and Washington against the majority of the rest of the country. The big cities are the ones at risk, and they are getting the least amount of money per capita. If you live in Wyoming, I guess you don't really care. I live in New York, and I know this is where the risk is."

According to the current federal funding formula, each state gets no less than .75% of the entire pool of funds, with the balance of the money divided up on a per capita basis. The result, critics say, is that rural states like Wyoming and Montana end up with more than they need and target-rich states like New York end up with less than they need.

The Senate has passed on several opportunities to alter the formula, with the most recent opportunity coming yesterday during final negotiations for reauthorization of the U.S.A. Patriot Act. The conferees on that committee, who are named by Ms. Collins and Mr. Lieberman, came up one vote shy of approving a plan that would have allocated more funds according to risk.

Most of the senators who held out were from small states: Senator Rockefeller, Democrat of West Virginia; Senator Leahy, Democrat of Vermont; Senator Roberts, Republican of Kansas; Senator Hatch, Republican of Utah, and Senator DeWine, Republican of Ohio.

Mr. Kean, a Republican and former governor of New Jersey, said he is comfortable with the House bill that passed last spring because "the vast majority of funds go where they're needed."

Noting the overwhelming majority that approved the House bill, Mr. Kean expressed disbelief over the Senate's reluctance to pass a similar one. Of the 10 congressmen who voted against the House bill, two, Michael Michaud and Thomas Allen, were from Maine, a state with only two representatives in the House. A "60 Minutes" program broadcast earlier this year found that rural counties were spending homeland security funds on things such as transporting riding lawnmowers and buying a defibrillator for high school basketball games. New York City, meanwhile, has had to increase local taxes to help pay for police overtime and raise private funds for programs like sending counter-terrorism police officers overseas to gather intelligence.