DEFENDS HOMELAND SECURITY SPENDING LEVEL
WASHINGTON -- Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge on Friday hit
back at critics who charge the Bush administration is not spending
enough to bolster regional counter-terrorism efforts, saying some
communities ""haven't taken advantage of the dollars Congress
In a wide-ranging discussion with reporters, Ridge said he
considered future terrorist attacks in the United States ""an
Ridge also said he did not consider California's decision to
start granting drivers licenses to illegal immigrants a setback in the
effort to create more uniform licensing procedures nationwide to make
them less vulnerable to fraud.
Some of the administration's allies in Congress disagree, and
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-El Cajon, may support a reduction in federal
highway funding for California and other states that pass such laws, a
spokesman for Hunter said.
Many governors, mayors and members of Congress routinely complain
that the administration has not done enough to bolster state and local
security efforts since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the
World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
""I don't think they understand,'' Ridge said when
asked about the criticism. ""We have right now $4 billion out
on the street. The federal government has done everything it needs to do
to say to the states and locals... "It's out there.' We are just
beginning to get in the applications so that we can spend those
About $164 million has been made available to California this
fiscal year through the federal government's main grant programs for
emergency response agencies. Another $78.3 million has been allocated
directly to major cities, including $31.4 million for Los Angeles and
$11.4 million for San Diego.
George Vinson, who heads California's Office of Homeland
Security, said the state has been spending its 20 percent share of the
main funding ""pretty rapidly.''
But he estimated that less than half of the local share has been
distributed to cities and counties because they haven't completed plans
for spending it.
""The secretary's absolutely right,'' Vinson said.
""But that doesn't mean we don't need more money.''
The state estimates it has spent $700 million on security since
the Sept. 11 attacks, but has received a total of $500 million in
federal aid in the past two years.
San Diego's homeland security director could not be reached for
Los Angeles has spent more than $138 million and has gotten about
$44 million in federal funding, said Julie Wong, spokeswoman for Mayor
""I know our grants office is working overtime to make
sure they're applying for everything we're eligible for,'' she said.
""We'd like to see more funding go directly to large cities
that are considered higher on the potential list of targets.''
Officials from California and other major states that are
considered likely targets of terrorism have complained that the formula
for distributing homeland security funds is unfair. Highly populated
states end up getting far less per person than rural states like
""The only way to organize the funding formula is
around the threat and vulnerability assessment,'' said Rep. Jane Harman
of El Segundo, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
""We're missing the central organizing mechanism for spending,
which is one national, integrated strategy for homeland security which
ranks our vulnerabilities and then puts our resources to work against
Days after his undersecretary for border security said entry
policies at U.S. borders would be reviewed because of a new California
law that will allow illegal aliens to obtain drivers licenses, Ridge
played down any broader security concerns about the law.
""I don't view it as a setback,'' he said.
""California has a history of moving out independently on a
lot of issues.... We'll just have to try to work around it and work
Critics say the action will make it easier for terrorists to
establish themselves in the country.
Rep. Hunter is ""going to look at different proposals''
for reducing transportation funding for states that pass such laws,
""if that would be an avenue to get the state to somehow
overturn this,'' said his spokesman, Mike Harrison.
""He thinks national security outweighs transportation
funding,'' Harrison said.
Hunter may introduce his own legislation or back a bill by Rep.
Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., that would reduce a state's highway funding by 25
percent over five years if it issues licenses to illegal immigrants.
Two years after the Sept. 11 attacks, Ridge said a combination of
better security, international cooperation and ""maybe a
little divine intervention, a little luck'' had averted more major
attacks in the United States.
But, he added: ""I think they've got Plan B, C, D and
M. I just do think it is a matter of inevitability. ""The
Department of Homeland Security operates under the notion that there
will be another attack.''