DHS will pare down state funding requests

The Homeland Security Department likely will not grant states all the money requested in security plans they recently submitted, but will instead focus more on helping to fund crucial systems.

In testimony recently before the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, DHS secretary Tom Ridge said the states' plans amount largely to 'wish lists.'

'We need to work with state and local governments to develop a standard list of facilities the loss of which would cause massive destruction of human life or economic loss,' Ridge said. 'We need to pare down the wish lists.'

State and local governments likely will use much of the funding they receive from DHS to purchase systems and electronic equipment to prepare for, cope with and recover from terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

The administration's fiscal 2005 DHS budget request includes $3.6 billion for first-responder terrorism preparedness grants.

DHS plans to double funding for the Urban Area Security Initiative to $1.45 billion. That program targets funds especially to large cities'a plan that has appeared to irk representatives from rural areas and smaller cities.

Grant allocation methods and the speed of grant distributions concerned several lawmakers, who criticized delays in the process. Ridge said DHS is working to develop a standard way for delivering funds to states, to speed the process.

Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.) said the top concern of first responders he has talked to is the lack of interoperable communications equipment. 'I was concerned that funding for that was zeroed out' in the administration's fiscal 2005 budget proposal, he said.

Ridge said DHS would let state and local agencies use grant funds for interoperable communications gear 'not only this year but in future years,' adding that the release of an interoperability standard is imminent.

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