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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 1:50 p.m., Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Hawaii awarded $20.2M in homeland security grants

Advertiser Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — Hawai'i is receiving more than $20.2 million in homeland security and communications grants, the Department of Homeland Security and Commerce Department announced today.

About $12.1 million comes from the homeland security grant program and will go to various programs to train, equip and protect first responders, including police, fire and medical units.

Maj. Gen. Robert Lee, state adjutant general and director of state civil defense, said the amount for those programs is about $800,000 less that Hawai'i received last year, although the city and county of Honolulu would see a slight increase of about $500,000 for urban area security.

Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said the department was directing money to areas most at risk.

"Our goal is to effectively manage risk in a way that lessens the vulnerability of the entire country while preparing to respond effectively to major catastrophes," he said.

A separate $8.1 million grant will be used to beef up the communications ability among the first responders during terrorist attacks and other disasters.

"When disaster strikes, first responders must have the tools to communicate," said Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez. "Under this streamlined program, states will be given grants to use technology that will make our cities and states safer."

But Lee said the amount Hawai'i and other states received for the program did not make sense because the guidance on applying for the grants also came out today.

"The only thing I can assume at this point is that they think Hawai'i is of a low threat and a low risk so that no matter what you put in for, you only get $8 million and that is the same for all the other states," Lee said.

Lee said meetings were still being held with all the state's counties to refine communications needs and determine what training and equipment is needed.

"It comes under the state (communications) interoperability plan due to the Department of State on Oct. 1," he said.

Contact Dennis Camire at dcamire@gns.gannett.com.