Higgins Says Toronto Terror Plot Is Acute Reminder of Critical Need for Resources; Believes Western New Yorkers Alone Shouldn’t Have to Foot the Bill for National Security
Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) joined Representative Pete King, Chairman of the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee, and other Congress members from across New York State in calling for a meeting with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff to demand answers as to why Homeland Security funds to New York have been significantly cut. Additionally, Higgins wrote Secretary Chertoff outlining his Western New York-specific concerns, especially calling the Secretary’s attention to DHS’s policy of cutting federal homeland security funds to Buffalo and taxing local residents for living at the border under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI).
"The policies of the Bush Administration are devastating local residents," said Congressman Higgins. "By cutting federal Homeland Security funds and pushing passport requirements, essentially imposing a fee for simply living at the border, Western New Yorkers alone are paying the cost of national security."
In a New York State Delegation letter to Homeland Security Department Secretary Michael Chertoff, members express dismay at the fact that New York Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) funding was cut by 40 percent under what is supposed to be a new risk-based distribution formula.
“The announcement of a proposed terror plot in Toronto only heightens the unfortunate reality that this region is a target,” said Congressman Higgins. “Cutting Homeland Security funding to Western New York is a mistake, one which hopefully can be reversed so that we will never face the much higher price associated with successful terror strikes.”
In Congressman Higgins’ separate letter, he also addressed security risk factors specific to Western New York, pointing to the proximity of the Niagara Power Plant, the Peace Bridge and the Lackawanna Six Al-Qaeda cell which was successfully uncovered and brought down.
“While I applaud your initiative to ensure that Homeland Security is targeted to the communities most at risk, I am skeptical of how your agency executed that initiative, judging by New York State’s dramatic drop in funding, and by Buffalo’s near half reduction,” Congressman Higgins said in his letter to Secretary Chertoff.
UASI funding to Buffalo was cut from $7.2 million in 2005 to $3.7 million in 2006, with a warning that UASI funding to Buffalo is likely to be completely eliminated next year.
Secretary Chertoff has confirmed DHS will hear the concerns of the New York delegation. Congressman King’s office is working to set up that meeting.