Government Technology

Secretary Michael Chertoff on 2007 Homeland Security Grant Program

January 4, 2007 By

Press Conference:

Secretary Chertoff: Good morning, everybody, on a warm, but rainy, morning. As you know, I'm joined here by Undersecretary George Foresman. We're going to start the new year by issuing the first part of our fiscal year 2007 homeland security grant guidance. This year we're making available $1.7 billion in grants under the Homeland Security Grant Program; there will be an additional set of grants, including the Infrastructure Protection Program grants that we will announce early next week.

I know you know that the Homeland Security Grant Program funds state and local governments for planning, organization, equipping, training and exercising against the possibility of terrorist attacks. It includes the Urban Area Security Initiative, which provides funds specifically directed to high risk cities and urban areas. Since 2003, the Department of Homeland Security has provided more than $18 billion in support to our state and local partners through these and other programs. And with the fiscal year 2007 grants, our total investment will reach nearly $20 billion, which is a considerable amount of money by any standards.

I thought what I would do is address our key principles, or our basic approach in the grant guidance and, in particular, focus on how this fits with our philosophy for risk management, and then we can talk a little bit about specific awards.

Now, what you will see this year as compared to past years are not huge changes, but refinement, simplification and transparency. Part of what we have done, particularly over the last year, is to listen to an awful lot of people -- and we've evaluated a lot of constructive criticism, some of it we've accepted, some of it we haven't accepted. But I think that it's resulted in an improved process and better results.

If you step back, our job here is risk management -- and that does not mean risk elimination. It means we have to look at the totality of risk across the United States, not just in a handful of places, and we have to figure out where to prioritize the money and the resources that we have against the greatest risk.

We recognize that every community can make a strong case for its own needs. If you live in a small town, it is of huge importance to you that that town be prepared against a possible attack or a natural disaster. But our responsibility is to look at the total risk and to prioritize our resources in a risk-based manner. It's what the American people expect and it's what Congress has mandated.

Now, in theory, there are three ways we could go about distributing risk funding across the country. The first would be to spread the money around like peanut butter on a piece of bread, with everybody getting a little bit. That would certainly be a feel good approach, but I think it would be not a responsible or risk-based approach.

Another way to do it would be to give all the money to a very small number of highest-risk cities and nowhere else. Now, clearly those cities deserve to get a lot of resources, but to focus exclusively on them would be shortsighted, because we cannot assume that the risk resides only in a very few places. In fact, the intelligence that I see every morning tells me quite the contrary, that risk can be found in many places in the United States.

So the third approach, and the one we've taken, is to have an appropriate mix, to recognize that there are a handful of cities that are in the highest risk category and need to get a disproportionate amount of the resources, but also to recognize that there are many other cities that do have a real, albeit perhaps somewhat lesser, risk, and to make sure

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