Archive for Monday, January 3, 2005

Kansas 26th in anti-terror funding

State’s per-capita rate ahead of N.J., California

January 3, 2005


After the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, Lawrence officials started spending money.

Fences and security cameras were purchased for the city's water treatment plants and radiological detectors for the fire department. Special emergency "escape hoods" were acquired for police officers.

"We're clearly more secure than we were before 9-11," City Manager Mike Wildgen said last week.

Some of the cash for those purchases came from coffers of local governments. But much of it came -- and will continue to come -- from the federal government. A December report by the Congressional Research Service shows Kansas will receive $8.07 in federal security funding for every man, woman and child in the state during 2005.

While that's far behind the $27.80-per-capita funding Wyoming will receive this year, it's still good enough to rank Kansas 26th in the nation, ahead of more urban states such as California and New Jersey. Those states will receive $8.05 and $7.08 per person, respectively, in 2005.

The formula that governs distribution of federal homeland security funds has often been criticized by lawmakers from heavily populated states, who say they face a higher risk of terrorism and should receive a heftier share of the money.

"Our effort to protect the most likely targets of terrorism is moving backward," Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said.

But Kansas officials say they can't operate on the assumption terrorists won't attack rural areas.

"We don't know that we're not the top target," said Joy Moser, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Adjutant General's Office, which oversees homeland security in the state. "It would be irresponsible for us not to spend what we can get to protect our people."

Rankings of selected states for federal homeland security funding per capita:
State Rank Per capita
Wyoming 1 $27.80
Alaska 2 $24.83
N.D. 3 $23.83
New York 9 $15.54
Kansas 26 $8.07
California 27 $8.05
N.J. 37 $7.08
Virginia 50 $5.23
Source: Congressional Research Service

A bioterrorism attack on Kansas, Moser said, could have international repercussions. A worldwide flu epidemic during World War I, she said, started at Fort Riley.

Right debate?

Paula Phillips, director of Douglas County Emergency Management, agreed.

"Just because we're predominantly rural and agricultural doesn't mean we don't have pipelines running through, we have trains that go through," Phillips said. "We do have trucks and other vehicles that carry hazardous materials going through all the time."

The debate about per-capita funding might be somewhat misleading. Overall, Kansas will receive $21.8 million in federal homeland security money during 2005 -- the vast majority distributed, by law, to local law enforcement, fire and ambulance agencies for equipment and training.

That's not even close to the $282 million California will get, and about a third of the $60 million going to New Jersey. New York will receive the highest grant, at $298 million.

Yet the argument over the funding formula persists, as acknowledged by the Congressional Research Service in its report.

text 2005 Homeland Security Grant Program (pdf)text Kansas receiving millions to battle terror (9-5-04)For more on this story, watch the 6News report at 6 tonight on Sunflower Broadband's channel 6.

"Critics of the present funding distribution method, including some members of Congress, have stated that the funding distribution methods used to provide federal homeland security assistance to states and localities are inadequate and unfair," the agency said in the unsigned study. "Additionally, these critics assert that the present formula does not consider the threat of terrorist attack or vulnerability."

But there is a counterargument, the service said.

"When security increases in one location, there is a possibility that terrorists search for other, softer, targets," the report said.


That possibility keeps Kansas officials seeking out federal money for homeland security.

"I think we make good use" of the money, Moser said.

Certainly, local fire departments of benefited. Last year, Douglas County spent more than $43,000 on equipment for fire services. Among the items purchased: battery chargers, chemical detectors, decontamination systems and a $10,425 portable water heater. The money came from federal grants.

"None of this is very cheap at all," said Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical Division Chief Shaun Coffey. "The federal government has been very helpful in allowing us to obtain additional equipment."

And over the past 12 months, fire departments in Jefferson, Franklin and Leavenworth counties have received more than $500,000 in money for new trucks and other equipment needed in an emergency.

It's money well-spent, Phillips said.

"We have a lot of other types of threats that maybe are not as high-profile as the World Trade Center or the Pentagon," Phillips said. "But we do have other things that can threaten our citizens."

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