WASHINGTON – The San
Diego region has suffered yet another cut in federal
anti-terrorism funding – this time receiving only about
one-ninth of what it had asked to help protect its
San Diego Unified Port District funding from
the federal Department of Homeland Security.
Requested: $1.25 million
Requested: $12 million
Received: $6.5 million
The San Diego Unified Port District will get barely
$140,000 this year to keep its waters safe from
terrorists, a fraction of the $1.25 million the port had
requested. The news comes just three months after the city
of San Diego learned that its share of federal
anti-terrorism funding had fallen sharply as well.
“After recent reports of an increasing threat of
terrorism, the Department of Homeland Security offers up a
pittance for San Diego port security,” Rep. Susan Davis,
D-San Diego, said in a statement.
“It is difficult to comprehend how the Department of
Homeland Security can reach the conclusion that San Diego
deserves such a dramatic decrease in port security
Homeland Security officials announced Monday that they
were awarding $399 million in grants to cities nationwide
to help them defend their ports, transit systems and
infrastructure from terrorists. The money is part of what
is called the “Infrastructure Protection Program.”
Under the same program, the Port District last year got
$6.5 million to help protect San Diego waters from such
things as underwater devices, improvised explosives and
small watercraft, as well as to protect passenger vessels
and the region's cruise ship terminal. The money has been
used on various things, including intrusion monitoring
systems and enhanced security perimeters.
A Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman said the
Port District had asked this year for $889,000 – Port
District spokeswoman Irene McCormack said the port asked
for $1.25 million – to pay for sonar equipment to help
dive teams monitor beneath bay bridges and piers. The
money was also targeted for satellite phones, command
vans, laptop computers for patrol boats and fiber-optic
equipment to help Harbor Police better communicate with
the U.S. Coast Guard and the Navy.
The port learned it
would instead get $139,837.
“I'd say for us it was probably a bit of a
disappointment,” McCormack said, noting that the
Department of Homeland Security ranked San Diego's port at
the bottom of four tiers in terms of its risk for a
terrorist attack. “But we're going to contact the
(department) and try to understand why the funding level
The Port District has jurisdiction over San Diego Bay
and San Diego Harbor. Its five member cities, whose
coastlines are part of the port, are San Diego, Chula
Vista, National City, Imperial Beach and Coronado.
“Either their priorities don't align with our national
priorities, or they asked us to fund a project that we
believe” is not pressing, said a Homeland Security
spokeswoman, explaining why some cities get far less than
Also receiving much less than they had in the past were
the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which
collectively got $12 million, down from $24.2 million.
East Coast ports fared better, with New York winning
$25.7 million, up from $6.6 million last year, and
Baltimore getting $4.8 million, up from $1 million.
Under the same program, San Diego's transit programs
will get $1.25 million – which includes money for
intercity buses, rail lines and ferries. Local transit
officials had asked for $1.4 million.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has said
that San Diego is considered less vulnerable than other
urban areas because of its military presence.
“It's unlikely terrorists are going to overcome the 1st
Marine Division and get into the naval base,” Chertoff
said in a past interview.
The Port District award is separate from the federal
government's Urban Area Security Initiative grants, which
San Diego can no longer apply for because federal
officials believe the region is no longer at high risk for
a terrorist attack. San Diego officials at the local,
state and federal levels are challenging the designation,
and the department has agreed to review its criteria for
awarding the grants.
While San Diego was eligible for the Urban Area grants
this year, its share of the anti-terrorism funding pie was
still drastically smaller than a year ago. In June, the
city learned that it would get just $7.9 million, far
below last year's $14.7 million.