In light of the alleged terrorist plot by suspected Qaeda operative Najibullah Zazi to detonate explosives around the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Rep. Peter King (R-Long Island) and Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-Brooklyn) have announced that they will fight to get funding restored to a federal program designed to prevent even worse attacks.
The Securing the Cities initiative creates a multilayered ring of sensors throughout the tri-state area, placing them at highways, toll plazas, bridges, tunnels and waterways in order to detect radioactive and nuclear material before it can enter the city.
“The recent New York terrorist arrests and alleged plot are a clear indication that the U.S. must bolster its efforts to fully fund this program,” said Clarke. “It would truly be a setback for the frontlines of homeland security if we were to lose the very valuable expertise and security system that has been established by this grant.”
Seventy-three million dollars in taxpayer money has already gone into the program which is designed to ensure that law enforcement has the resources to prevent a terrorist attack and protects the city’s bridges and tunnels from being targeted, but Schumer and others believe more funding is needed to sustain and enhance the program.
“Very simply, the New York City region is the number one terrorist target.” said King. “To shortchange funding for this critical program which will help protect this area from a terrorist attack carried out by a radiological or nuclear weapon is the height of irresponsibility.”
King and Clarke have secured $40 million for the program and Schumer was able to secure $10 million in the Senate, but the funding may be reduced when the two bills are combined this month.
STC is the nation’s only program designed to prevent a nuclear or radiological attack against New York City, and the revenue could be used to purchase more sensors, link equipment and conduct training excercises.
Detection devices have already been placed at major entry points leading into the city and have also been given to other law enforcement agencies in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
The program, which is a collaboration between various goverment agencies, the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office and regional and state partners including the NYPD, was originally proposed by the Department of Homeland Security in 2006.
It was was designed to be a pilot program created for New York with funding dropping off at the end of the 2009 fiscal year, however remaining funding from the last three budget years is still being allocated. The DHS is in the process of evaluating how to expand the program to other cities and stresses that regional stakeholders can continue to fund it through a myriad of DHS grants, like the Homeland Security Grant program.
The Domestic Nuclear Detection Office will continue to support the STC initiative with “experienced program management and subject matter experts in preventative radiological and nuclear detection,” said DHS spokeswoman Amy Kudwa.
Schumer belives that if the program is allowed to reach its full potential it could serve as a model for other cities across the country to create similar initiatives.
“Following 9-11, the federal government correctly put resources into this program and the NYPD is leading the way in implementing this high tech system, but we need federal funding to provide sufficient resources to finish the job,” the senator said.