Weekly Feature

2014-04-03 / Local News

Officials question region’s exclusion from federal Homeland Security program

Area elected officials are calling for Western New York to be reinstated as eligible for federal Homeland Security funding through the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) program.

Congressman Brian Higgins, D-West Seneca, was joined by Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, City of Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster, Niagara County Sheriff James Voutour and public safety leaders serving the Buffalo, Erie and Niagara regions on the matter.

Higgins and local leaders and first responders are especially concerned due to a recent Western New York mention in the latest edition of Inspire, an English language al-Qaeda magazine.

Higgins wrote a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson expressing his concern. In his letter, Higgins wrote in part: “Given the roster of Tier II cities for whom funding has been restored, it is difficult to understand why the Buffalo-Erie-Niagara (BEN) area continues to be ranked lower and left off this list.”

Higgins goes on to note the region’s proximity to the northern border, the Niagara Power Project, the Great Lakes, and a large extended population. He also mentions the area’s history with Al Qaeda’s influence with the Lackawanna Six.

In FY 2010, 64 regions, including Buffalo-Erie-Niagara (BEN), were eligible for the UASI program and the Buffalo region received $5,544,750 in UASI funding. In fact, from FY03-FY11 the Buffalo region received more than $53 million through the program.

In 2012 the UASI program was cut to 31 eligible cities and in 2013 eligibility was reduced further to 25 cities.

The fiscal year 2014 UASI program received a 5.1 percent increase over the FY 13 level – to $578 million – which allowed the number of cities included in the program to be expanded from 25 to 39. Yet, Western New York was again left off the list of eligible communities.

Funding eligibility is based on a classified risk-assessment, which is based on threat, vulnerability and consequence.

UASI enhances the capacity to respond to all-hazard events. The most tragic and illustrative of the importance of this collaborative region–wide partnership was the crash of Flight 3407.

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