State asks for security money
By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON Hawai'i lawmakers have appealed to the Bush administration not to overlook the Islands when it comes to federal money for homeland security.
The state's terrorism threat level remains below the national level, and state leaders emphasize that Hawai'i does not face the same risks as other parts of the country, but state lawmakers contend that national symbols such as Pearl Harbor and other strategic military facilities need protection.
The Bush administration said yesterday it would immediately release $100 million for homeland security in New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco and Houston.
House and Senate negotiators also are reviewing an emergency spending bill for the war in Iraq that includes as much as $700 million this year in homeland security money for high-risk cities, $1.5 billion in grants to state and local law enforcement, and $450 million for security expenses such as overtime costs during terrorism alerts.
Rep. Ed Case, D-Hawai'i, said the Bush administration consistently has shortchanged homeland security needs since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"Hawai'i has real needs that are not being met," Case said. "This administration has not been sensitive to the states and counties in terms of homeland security."
In a letter to the House Appropriations Committee's homeland security subcommittee, the congressman outlined more than $190 million in direct security needs for Hawai'i. The requests include $113.9 million for airport improvements, $22.5 million for energy, water, electric, chemical, gas and wastewater security and $5 million for harbor security.
"It's not a wish list," Case said, adding that local law enforcement agencies are now expected both to fight crime and protect against terrorism. "Something has to give."
In a separate letter to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawai'i, described more than $104 million in security expenses for police, fire, civil defense and emergency services on O'ahu alone, including the costs of providing extra security around military facilities.
"There are simply not sufficient funds locally or at the disposal of the state to provide the required level of security and protection," Abercrombie wrote.
Maj. Charles Anthony, a spokesman for the state Department of Defense, said the security burden has had more of an immediate impact on local than state law enforcement agencies.
Hawai'i's terrorism threat level is at yellow, for elevated risk, while the federal government is at orange, for high risk, which Gov. Linda Lingle has said reflects the danger to the Islands. But facilities in Hawai'i that are under federal security, such as military bases and the airport, are at orange.
Hawai'i lawmakers will try to obtain homeland security money for the state as Congress considers annual spending bills for the next fiscal year, but they are competing with other states also seeking more federal money.
"I don't think we're all that different from the rest of the country when it comes to security risks," Case said.
John Machacek of Gannett News Service contributed to this report.