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Higgins, Slaughter & Tonko Fight for Security Funding for Upstate New York

Jun 1, 2011
Press Release

Congressmembers Brian Higgins (NY-27), Louise Slaughter (NY-28) and Paul Tonko (NY-21) sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) opposing the decision to remove Albany, Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse from eligibility in the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) Program for 2011. 

After the FY11 Continuing Resolution cut the UASI program by $162 million, rather than reducing funding for all 64 urban areas, 32 regions, including the upstate New York communities, were eliminated from the program entirely. 

“Over the last several years, New York’s four upstate communities combined have received a small fraction - just over one percent - of the total funding allocated nationally for the UASI program but the impact of these funds in terms of preparedness is substantial,” said Congressman Higgins, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee.  “The upstate New York region has unique risk factors many of which if compromised could have a statewide and nationwide impact.”

“In Western New York we appreciate the many national security needs across the country, but when Upstate Cities, two of which are on an international border, are denied funding only to have funding allocated to smaller cities in America’s interior, I have to question our security priorities,” said Slaughter. “I think that if you ask law enforcement officials in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany, they’ll tell you that denying this small amount of funding to Upstate does not mean we are less at risk, instead we’ve shifted the financial burden of security on them.”

“The cuts to these critical homeland security funds are not just unfair but are also shortsighted,” said Congressman Tonko. “The federal government has a shared responsibility to provide the resources to help keep our communities safe, and taking these funds from upstate communities will endanger their efforts to protect the public and prepare for possible terrorist attacks.”

Below is a breakdown of total UASI funding to upstate regions in recent years:

RegionFY 2004 - FY 2010 Total FundingPercentage of  Total Funding
Buffalo$42,819,785 0.79%
Total for Upstate NY$64,894,3981.19%
Total for U.S.$5,395,977,498 


The UASI program, administered by DHS, focuses on enhancing regional preparedness in targeted areas through collaboration that fosters integrated emergency prevention, protection, response and recovery.  Each year eligible urban areas must re-apply for the federal funds distributed through the UASI program. 

The following is the text of the letter sent by Reps. Higgins, Slaughter and Tonko:

May 25, 2011

The Honorable Janet Napolitano          
Department of Homeland Security      
3801 Nebraska Avenue NW                    
Washington, DC 20393  

Dear Secretary Napolitano:
We write to express our strong opposition to the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to remove Albany, Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse from participation in the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) program in fiscal year 2011.

This decision disproportionately endangers New York. Suddenly and with little notice our four largest upstate communities learned, halfway through the fiscal year, that they would not receive the resources they planned on for emergency preparedness and response training.  These communities encompass multiple international border crossings with Canada, span two Great Lakes, represent multiple transportation hubs for the Northeast region and are home to the regional energy transmission grid.  They also encompass nuclear power plants, chemical facilities and other international infrastructure which are vulnerable to attack. 

The removal of these cities from the UASI program will endanger the progress the State of New York and these communities have made to prevent, protect against, respond to and recover from terrorist attacks.  This is being done at a time when the threat dynamic is changing and the risk of retaliation by both homegrown terrorists and Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda affiliates are high.  This is a time for our communities to stay vigilant, however without the proper resources our communities cannot maintain the proper level of readiness, nor ensure our communities are properly secured.   We cannot lay the entire financial burden of securing our cities from this international problem entirely on local governments and expect to adequately protect our citizens and make our cities safe.
Thank you for consideration of this important matter.