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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, June 1, 2006

Counterterrorism funding cut

By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Government Writer

A 40 percent cut in Hawai'i's federal counterterrorism funds will force the state to reprioritize its homeland security needs, a Civil Defense official said.

Edward Teixeira, vice director of state Civil Defense, said the state had anticipated receiving the same allocation as last year nearly $22 million and was surprised yesterday to learn it would get only $13 million.

"We really had no indication it was going to be less," he said.

The state's grant application pinpointed 15 priorities, including improvements to first responders' communications systems and increasing emergency shelter capacity for people with special needs.

"How do we prioritize and divvy up that money across the state and still be able to make some measurable improvements?" Teixeira asked. "That's going to be the hard part."

The reductions are a result of a smaller pool of money the Department of Homeland Security saw a budget cut of $600 million and a new way of distributing funds, which included getting money to cities considered at lesser risk.

In addition, hurricanes Katrina and Rita last year, as well as preparations for a flu pandemic, siphoned money away from counterterrorism grants.

"Everybody saw a reduction," Teixeira said.

Honolulu, considered one of the 46 U.S. cities at greatest risk of terrorist attacks, will see its funding reduced from $6.4 million to $4.76 million.

Many other cities considered prime targets, including New York and Washington, saw their funding significantly reduced.

Since 2002, Hawai'i has received $100 million for homeland and port security projects. The money has been used to improve response to disasters, including potential terrorist attacks. Prior grants to the city went toward improving communication systems for first responders and protecting critical infrastructure such as water supplies and sewage plants.

Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann said he was pleased with Hawai'i's grant, considering that the federal government was tightening its purse strings. In a statement issued yesterday, he said: "The funding will go a long way toward improving the interoperability of the emergency communications among our city's first responders police, fire and emergency services personnel who work tirelessly each day to make sure our city is safe for residents and visitors alike."

U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, a senior member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said the grant underscores the importance that Honolulu, as a high-threat, high-density urban area, be prepared in the event of terrorism and other catastrophic events.

"It is important for Hawai'i, with no neighboring states, to be self-sufficient if disaster strikes," he said in a release.

The Urban Areas Security Initiative provides money to 46 metropolitan areas. It is part of a broader grant program at DHS, most of which attracted little controversy because it is divided evenly among states and territories.

Reach Treena Shapiro at tshapiro@honoluluadvertiser.com.