Last year, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it would allocate homeland security grants among states and cities based on an assessment of their vulnerability to attack.
That sounds obvious but it represented a big change. In prior years, a pork barrel formula had funneled a share of funds to everyone—with the result that some towns, facing little risk, used the money to buy snow blowers, while high-risk locales scrambled to find the resources to keep their residents safe.
This week, DHS announced the recipients of 2006 homeland security grants under the new risk-based approach. New York City, which received $207 million from DHS last year, will get $124 million in funds.
New York officials are rightly outraged by this strange result. The City spends some $5 million per week on counter-terrorism.
In assessing risk, DHS, instead of convening impartial experts to figure out sensible numbers, relied upon input from governors, mayors and local homeland security officials around the country. In deciding that New York City was not so vulnerable, these folks concluded that the City has no national monuments or icons to attract the interests of terrorists.
As I have argued at length in a law review article, homeland security funding needs to be completely overhauled.
Rather than leave things in the hands of DHS bureaucrats (the same people who bungled the Katrina response), Congress, in accordance with its constitutional duties to protect the states and cities, should reimburse states and cities for all of the reasonable counter-terrorism costs they incur. This is how things were done for much of the history of the Republic.