Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Friday rebuked criticism from New York lawmakers over the administration's decision to reduce some anti-terror grants for the Big Apple.
Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle had criticized the Obama administration on Thursday for reducing port security grants 25 percent and mass transit security grants 27 percent. But the White House countered that overall funding for New York City anti-terror efforts has dramatically increased since the Bush administration.
"Let me assure you that DHS is thoroughly committed to supporting New York City's first responders and overall preparedness against acts of terrorism and other disasters," Napolitano said in a letter obtained by The Hill. "We recognize the unique security challenges that New York City faces, which is why overall port and transit security grant funding in New York City has increased by 24 percent under this Administration."
Napolitano's letter shows the White House is continuing its defense of its anti-terrorism efforts. Several members of the administration, including the president, have come between the crosshairs of lawmakers since the failed Times Square bombing attempt two weeks ago.
Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), the ranking Republican on the House Homeland
Security Committee, said
Friday that Eric Holder "doesn't deserve to be attorney general"
because he would not definitely say that the suspect in the Times Square
attempt, Faisal Shahzad, was motivated by radical Islam.
King was also critical of the grant reductions, and in a statement late Friday called Napolitano's message "a desperate letter based on a phony argument."
"If Janet Napolitano and the Obama Administration really believe that New York has been sitting on $275 million for four years, why were they just yesterday bragging about all of the extra stimulus money they gave to New York last year for homeland security?" King said. "The fact is that almost all of the money that has not been spent is being held up by the DHS bureaucracy."
Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) said Thursday that "cutting Big Apple homeland security funding to the core is mind-boggingly bad judgment."
President Barack Obama was in New York Thursday, and the congressman said on MSNBC that "the president is going to get an earful about this no matter where he goes in New York City today."
King and Weiner, both New York City area congressmen, received copies of the letter.
"This letter is a cheap political attempt by the Obama administration to cover up and hide the fact that it has shortchanged New York," King said.
With regard to the funding, Napolitano said that $100 million of the $300 million in port security grants in the federal stimulus act went to New York City. She also said that, since 2006, over $275 million slated for port and transit security in New York has not been drawn down and none has been spent from last year.
The White House made cuts to the Homeland Security budget across the board this year and some of those cuts have affected New York. Still, Napolitano said, the administration is committed to keeping New York safe.
"Given the sense of urgency we all feel, we are focused on working closely with Congress and our state and local partners to ensure these funds are put to work quickly to address important security needs in New York City and throughout the State," she said.
This post was updated at 8:50 p.m.