The press coverage of the latest DHS debacle has been fair, but one thing that I haven’t seen reported anywhere, other than in NRO’s editorial on the subject, is that the Congressional Research Service predicted that DHS’s new formula for allocating anti-terrorism funding would probably result in high-risk areas like New York and Washington getting shortchanged. So, this shouldn’t have taken so many members of Congress by surprise. Here’s what CRS wrote last January when the new formula was announced:
One could argue that by not allocating strictly on risk, DHS has not addressed the critics, such as the 9/11 Commission, in its 2004 report, who advocate a purely risk-based allocation of homeland security funding. By coupling need with risk, DHS might be providing funding to states and urban areas that do not have a high risk of terrorism. Additionally, some might argue that less UASI funding will be distributed based on risk. In FY2005, DHS distributed UASI funding based purely on risk, using credible threat, presence of critical infrastructure, vulnerability, population, population density, law enforcement investigative and enforcement activity, and the existence of formal mutual aid agreements as funding formula factors. In FY2006, DHS has added urban area homeland security needs to the UASI distribution formula. Conversely, by allocating funding based on both risk and need, DHS is arguably addressing not only terrorism risk, but also a state and urban area’s capability to address that risk.
CRS also proposed a solution:
Congress may choose to address the issue of risk- and need-based funding by reviewing FY2006 state and urban-area allocations, once they have been announced by DHS at a later date, and determining if the new distribution formula meets the homeland security needs of the nation as a whole. If Congress were to determine that this new distribution method does not address the national needs, it might consider imposition of a distribution method beyond the present statutory requirement of a guaranteed amount of 0.75% to every state. This distribution method might include risk criteria and benchmarks for determining national homeland security needs.
As NRO’s editorial argues, those risk criteria and benchmarks should be strict enough to reduce eligibility for the program so that only seven or eight high-threat, high-risk urban areas qualify for funding. When the subject inevitably comes up on the Sunday morning talk shows this weekend, I don’t think it would be out of line for the hosts to ask government officials why this program — which was initially designed for just seven cities — now distributes anti-terrorism money to 95 cities, most of which face a very low risk of terrorism.