Members criticize DHS on grant funding

At a packed hearing of the House Committee on Homeland Security yesterday, members blasted the funding allocation process of the Department of Homeland Security’s Urban Area Security Initiative.

Committee Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.) said that Homeland Security’s grants decisions “raised real questions about the competency of the department.”

The department has come under fire from lawmakers who say it has underfunded areas they consider highly threatened, such as New York City and Washington.

Rep. James Gibbons (R-Nev.) defended the funding formula, saying that it is “difficult to understand” because cities’ needs vary.

Washington’s chief of police, Charles Ramsey, replied, “The formula is complicated with the exception of common sense.” He testified with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams.

King and ranking member Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) pledged increasingly vigorous oversight of the department. Both demanded that Secretary Michael Chertoff testify before the committee in the weeks ahead.

In a prepared statement for the panel, the department argued that it is taking a national approach and is not as focused on local needs: “The discussion on funding should not be an issue of placing the safety and security of any one person, community or state in America ahead of another. This is very much about making our entire nation safer and more secure.”