The Department of Homeland Security has ranked the District in a low-risk category of terrorist attack or catastrophe, the Washington Post reports, putting it in the bottom 25 percent of U.S. states and territories, as part of a decision that will cost the city millions in anti-terror funds, according to city and federal officials.
The news came as angry officials from New York and Washington demanded explanations for why the department slashed funds in a separate urban anti-terrorism program by 40 percent for the metropolitan areas hit hardest by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
New York will receive $124.5 million in anti-terrorism grants for cities at high risk of attacks, a deep cut of some 40 percent described as "a knife in the back" by one lawmaker.
The national capital region, which encompasses Washington and its Maryland and Virginia suburbs, will receive $46 million, compared to $77.5 last year.
The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday announced grant amounts for 46 cities, divvying up a $740 million pool of funds.
"It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out these are two cities still at risk," D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey told the Washington Post.
Homeland Security officials told the Post that D.C. had far fewer potential targets than larger jurisdictions, like California. They told the newspaper the decisions came after an elaborate process aimed at fairly dividing anti-terror funds.
Meanwhile, according to the Homeland Security Department, New York has no national monuments or icons, a determination that led to a 40 percent cut in anti-terrorism funding. And New Yorkers are seething over the news, and some are demanding the firing of Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., charged that the Bush administration had "declared war on New York" with its decision to reduce anti-terrorism funding by $83 million while increases went to cities like Jacksonville, Fla., Louisville, Ky., and Omaha, Neb.
"I'm not begrudging any other city, but why would you cut the No. 1 target in the country by 40 percent?" said King, who demanded an investigation. "How can you possibly justify that?"
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., on Thursday said President Bush "should not come back to New York and stand with us" until his administration comes up with more money to keep New York safe.
"Anyone who can't see New York monuments at risk is blind as a bat when it comes to homeland security. This is wrong and unfair, but also outrageous," Schumer said. "The bottom line is this is abandoning New York."
A worksheet made by the federal government to explain the decision, obtained by The Associated Press, said the city had just four major financial assets at risk, and no national monuments or icons — a description ridiculed by New York officials.
"When you stop a terrorist, they have a map of New York City in their pocket," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "They don't have a map of any of the other ... 45 places."
District of Columbia Mayor Anthony A. Williams condemned the reduction as "shortsighted."
"I firmly believe that this area could be attacked again at any time, and now is not the time to back off on our efforts to train first responders, prepare our hospitals or harden our defenses," Williams said in a statement.
The District of Columbia got another jolt when the Department of Homeland Security cut its grant to $4.3 million, from $9.2 million last year, under a smaller program, tailored for states.
The cut came in part because the department determined that nation's capital was in a low-risk category for terrorist attack or catastrophe, the Washington Post reported Friday.
Ramsey angrily noted that the District received among the smallest allocations in the country, less than Rhode Island, Montana, Hawaii and Utah.
"Are you going to tell me Rhode Island should get more money than the District of Columbia?" Ramsey said in an interview on Washington Post Radio.
Federal officials defended the decisions.
"At the end of the day our job is to make sure that we apply resources in an appropriate manner across the full breadth of this nation so that we get the maximum benefit out of those dollars," Homeland Security Undersecretary George Foresman told reporters in Washington.
The Urban Area Security Initiative has created a fierce competition among dozens of cities vying to prove their ongoing need for federal anti-terrorism aid 4½ years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The high-threat grant money is not the only source of grants for cities, but in New York City's case, it amounted to more than 75 percent of the grant money it received in 2005, some $166 million of the $204 million total. The remaining $38 million came through a separate federal program that grants money to states.
Most cities had been bracing for a reduction in the high threat money this year because Congress shrunk the UASI total more than $100 million from the $855 million provided a year earlier, but some like L.A. actually saw an increase.
Chertoff has said the agency is shifting its overall grant-making program to direct a greater share of the money to those places deemed to be at greater risk.
New York officials, from Bloomberg to members of Congress, have long complained the government scattered too much money to rural, low-threat areas at the expense of big cities like New York.
Gov. George Pataki, speaking in New York City on Wednesday, agreed that New York is "deserving of far more of the threat-based funds that are allocated."