Federal Anti-Terror Funds to Connecticut Increase

July 20, 2007

Connecticut will get $23 million in federal homeland security grants this year, an increase of about $10 million from a year ago largely because of new funding for police, fire and medical emergency radios, officials said Wednesday.

The new funding reverses a decline in recent years of federal homeland security money distributed to the state, but lawmakers said they are still concerned funds for some key anti-terror programs are shrinking. Connecticut got about $13 million in fiscal year 2006, officials said.

“This year, Connecticut fares well,” Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., said in a statement. “We will be able to improve communications among police, firefighters and emergency medical workers across jurisdictional and service boundaries. This has been and will continue to be a top priority for all first preventers and responders.”

Lieberman is chairman of the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which plays a strong role in shaping anti-terror policies.

The biggest boost to Connecticut this year comes from $13 million in interoperable communications grants for first-responders. The grants were announced by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Commerce Department.

The money arrives in the wake of a review earlier this year which found that of 75 major U.S. cities, only six received a top grade in emergency communications.

Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., noted that the 911 Commission found that poor communications was a major flaw in the nation’s homeland security system.

“I am pleased that DHS has emphasized interoperability because communication among our first responders is critical during a crisis,” Courtney said in a statement.

The communications money is a one-time grant, unlike many other federal anti-terror programs which are funded annually, lawmakers said. Lieberman is pursuing legislation to provide annual funding for the communications program.

Connecticut also will receive $10 million in funding for the State Homeland Security Grant Program and the Law Enforcement Terrorist Training Program. That marks a decrease of about 23 percent from last year when the state got $13 million from those two programs, Lieberman said. Two years ago, the state got $21.5 million in homeland security grants.

Lieberman noted that nationwide funding for the two programs has decreased over the past three years. Connecticut is one of 38 states to receive less money from the two programs this year, he added.

Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell and Courtney said they are worried about the decline in funding to the state for the two major anti-terror programs.

“I am disappointed that Connecticut’s share of these important grants continues to be whittled away,” Rell said in a statement. “Though Connecticut is as prepared as it can be to cope with natural or man-made disasters, these cuts make that job much more difficult.”

She vowed to press for more federal help.

“I also remain concerned about continued the decline in overall funding for Connecticut, given the importance of the Port of New London in my district and the risks associated with that major commercial hub,” Courtney said.

Courtney’s district also includes the U.S. Naval Submarine Base in Groton and the nearby submarine builder, the Electric Boat shipyard.

Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., gave mixed reviews to the latest round of homeland security funding.

“With so many constituents who work in New York City, I am pleased to see the Department of Homeland Security increased funding for the most at-risk areas in the country,” he said in a statement. “It seems to me, however, we can do a better job of distributing homeland security funding based upon an assessment of risk and vulnerability.”

The state failed to qualify for a third key grant program, the Urban Area Security Initiative for cities at high-risk of a terrorist attack, because no city met the eligibility requirements, Lieberman said.

On the Net: Dept. of Homeland Security: http://www.dhs.gov

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