NYC Terror Dollars: Addressing the Real Funding Problem

Jena McNeill /

In the wake of last Saturday’s attempted Times Square bombing, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) is mad because NYC’s share of federal counterterrorism dollars has fallen over the past few years. These dollars, allocated through the DHS Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) have gone from “25% of the total funding pot in 2005 to 18% in 2010.” Schumer may indeed be right, that dollars have fallen, but he fails to address the more fundamental problem of UASI funding—the fact that more and more jurisdictions are receiving the money, leaving and less and less for actual urban areas.

In FY 2008 there were 42 UASI jurisdictions that could receive these grant monies—meant to serve large, urban areas where a terrorist attack would have catastrophic national consequences. This number, largely due to politics in Congress, however, continues to increase, now totaling 60—without any additional monies—diluting the pool of resources and under-sourcing America’s urban areas.

Making UASI work the way it was intended will require DHS and Congress to simply say no to some jurisdictions that want the monies. Simply adding more dollars to the pool as Schumer suggest would just further the problem and waste American tax dollars. Reforming UASI correctly will require an understanding that not all jurisdictions suffer from an equal threat of terrorism. As my colleague Matt Mayer emphasizes, “rather than continue to spread federal funds using an ‘inch thick and a mile wide’ mentality, Congress should reform the federal grant programs to target the maximum amount of federal funds at the highest-risk states, cities, and counties-where the funds could meaningfully increase the security of Americans.”

Indeed NYC is a major target for terrorists. In fact, the city has been a target of foiled terror plots 8 times since 9/11. But simply increasing the top-line would be ignoring the real problem.