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Local Democrats Call Proposal Slashing Federal Counterterrorism Funds 'Unconscionable' And 'Indefensible'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Blazing criticism was erupting Wednesday after President Barack Obama decided to slash federal counterterrorism funds.

As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, the criticism came from local Democrats who are usually squarely in the president's corner. They said the decision to cut counterterrorism funds will jeopardize their ability to protect New Yorkers from ISIS, al Qaeda, and others who want to harm us.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) was among those who slammed the White House proposal that would cut nearly $300 million from the $600 million allocated for counterterrorism programs across the country.

"It's been slashed nearly in half to $330 million and this couldn't come at a worse time, as terror threats are increasing, as danger threats from ISIS are increasing, as we hear about lone wolves from one end of the country to the other," Schumer said.

In New York, the projected budget would be slashed nearly in half from the current $180 million in funding.

Schumer said he was "shocked, disappointed, chagrined" to learn of the funding cuts.

"One of the glues that's held us all together is that the federal government has stepped up to the plate and said we have to help our localities with the war on terror," Schumer said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio was also infuriated by the cuts.

"Congress must step forward to protect, not only New York City, but all the places in this country that may be a key terror target," he said.

The mayor said local lawmakers would "fight these cuts. We won't stand for them."

Schumer and de Blasio were joined by police Commissioner Bill Bratton and fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro Wednesday to call on the White House to reconsider the proposal for 2017, CBS2's Janelle Burrell reported.

"We particularly know in the wake of the Paris attacks, the San Bernardino attacks, that we have to be more vigilant than ever, more prepared than ever," de Blasio said.

The NYPD has successfully thwarted many terror plots targeting New York City, de Blasio said, but only because of support and cooperation from the federal government.

"This is no time for that support to be cut back," the mayor added.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said it was "indefensible," to propose such large cuts to federal funding.

According to officials, part of the funding goes to the "urban area security initiative," which helps cities prepare for terror attacks with training for police and firefighters. The program also helps fund extra patrols at area transit hubs and waterways.
Bratton said the cuts would, among other things, take away the NYPD's needed active shooter exercises, such as one that was completed on the subway recently.

"A $90 million cut is unconscionable -- and I'm just speaking about New York City, because this city we put in a lot of our own resources. This is a shared responsibility," the police commissioner said.

The city is so intent on reversing the decision that Bratton led reporters on an unusual tour of some of the city's counterterrorism assets – including specially-armed and trained officers, dogs that sniff out explosives, and a huge nerve center that tracks suspicious activity.

"Almost 9,000 cameras, thousands of license plate scanners, thousands of radiation detection devices – we're going to need funds to expand that; to maintain that," Bratton said.

Officials said the cuts will cripple the city's ability to send that information to the police force through smartphone technology.

"If those grants get cut in half, that jeopardizes the entire program that we've spent the past few years developing," said NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Information Technology Jessica Tisch.

The cuts would also mean cut to the FDNY counterterrorism programs, and could wipe out the budget for the city's Office of Emergency Management, officials said.

OEM Commissioner Joseph Esposito said the money is crucial for his coordination of city agencies during emergencies, 1010 WINS Juliet Papa reported. The funds also help responders during disasters like Superstorm Sandy, as well as security for the Pope.

"Almost two-thirds of New York City emergency management funding comes from these grants," Esposito said. "So we would almost have to close our doors if this was cut."

Another program that would be decimated is the city's emergency supply stockpile, which right now has enough food and medicine for 70,000 people for seven days in case of emergency.

Since the stockpile is perishable, it needs to be replenished constantly. If the cuts go through, officials said, there would be no money to do that.

Republicans likewise took issue with the cuts. U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), of Long Island, is on the Homeland Security Committee and the chairman of the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence.

"The only unofficial explanation we've gotten -- and this makes no sense at all -- is that because the programs are working, there's no need to continue to fund them at the same levels," King told WCBS 880 in an interview.

The cuts are a part of President Barack Obama's new budget proposal, and will most likely be voted on later this year.

"They want to try and take us down," said de Blasio, "and we need every tool we can to protect ourselves."

"The president in general has been good on terror funding," Schumer added. "We're here to tell bureaucrats in Washington who picked up the machete and made this cut it shall not stand, go back to the drawing board."

Late Wednesday in an unusual and extraordinary move, the White House slammed Schumer for attacking the president.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Schumer is "wrong" and called his "credibility" on homeland security into question because he voted against the Iran nuclear treaty.


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