May 21st came and went without any apparent signs that the world was ending, but the nearly three dozen U.S. cities that were dropped two days earlier from the fiscal-year 2011 Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) grant program could nevertheless be forgiven for thinking otherwise.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which administers the UASI program, will distribute nearly $663 million in UASI grants in FY2011, a 20% decline from what it allocated last year. (Click on the expandable chart below to see how the FY2010 and FY2011 UASI funding lines diverge.)
There were three ‘headlines’ in the May 19 UASI budget announcement:
- The 11 largest cities by funding have been spared any grant cutbacks at all.
- A less fortunate group of 20 cities suffered significant reductions, mainly in the 25-30% range.
- An astonishing 33 cities were cut from the program entirely and will receive no UASI funding this year.
Some cities might find relief in other portions of the $1.2-billion Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP), but across-the-board budget reductions this year make that less likely. As The Wall Street Journal noted after the FEMA allocations were announced: “Many cities left out likely will still get some grant money indirectly through smaller programs that provide funds for security efforts in states, transit systems, ports and elsewhere, although those amounts also are being significantly reduced.”
Analysis of the FY2011 UASI Program
In the FY2010 budget, Congress appropriated $887 million for UASI, of which $832.5 million was allocated to urban areas (the remainder went towards a statutory “carve-out” for nonprofit organizations plus FEMA’s traditional percentage cut to cover grant program management and administration [M&A]). The 10 best-funded cities, known as Tier I, received $524.5 million, or 63% of the total, with New York City getting the most funds (18.2%). The 54 less-well-funded Tier-II cities received the remaining $308 million (37%); cities receiving the smallest allocation got slightly over $1 million each.
The UASI appropriation for FY2011 is $725 million, an 18.3% drop from what was appropriated in FY2010. The nonprofit carve-out and other deductions like FEMA’s M&A cut leaves $662.6 million to be allocated to the cities, a decrease of 20.2% from the FEMA allocation in FY2010. Tier I has gained an 11th urban area: San Diego. The expanded list of Tier-I cities will be eligible for $540.7 million of the total allocation, and the 20 Tier-II areas will be eligible for the remaining $121.9 million. New York City remained on top with 22.9% of total UASI funding and Los Angeles/Long Beach was second with 13.7%. (Click on the table below to see details of the FY2010 and FY2011 UASI allocations by state and city.)
Here are some of what we would consider the more notable shifts in the UASI program:
- The addition of San Diego is significant in that it boosted Tier I’s share from 63% to 81.6% of the overall UASI dollars available, while Tier II has to make do with 18.4% this year, down from 37%.
- Of all the cities remaining in the UASI program this year, Miami appears to have been hit the hardest. Although it suffered only a 12.6% direct cut, it is merged in the FY2011 UASI program with Fort Lauderdale, which lost all its funding. So the combined entity actually took a 44% hit, dropping from $17.1 million to $9.6 million.
- In terms of which states were impacted the most by the loss of UASI cities, the worst-hit were: New York, which lost four (Buffalo, Rochester, Albany, Syracuse); California with three (Sacramento, Oxnard, Bakersfield); and Texas with three (San Antonio, El Paso, Austin). Several states lost two cities, including Ohio, Louisiana and Oklahoma.
- Finally, in its decision to pass all funding cuts to Tier-II urban areas while keeping Tier I intact, we wonder if the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) could be signaling the beginning of the end of Tier II altogether. This seems to be the way Congress is leaning, with the House Appropriations Committee’s version of the FY2012 DHS appropriations bill restricting UASI grants to the 10 highest-risk urban areas. (Of course this makes DHS’ decision to add an 11th Tier-I city this year all the more curious as well.)
In our next post we will examine the combined effects of changes to the UASI, State Homeland Security Program (SHSP) and other FY2011 grant programs.
Our Projections vs. Actual Allocations
In Part 2 of this series we offered up two predictive scenarios for how the UASI money might be distributed to Tier-I and Tier-II cities. Our first scenario assumed that all 64 cities from FY2010 would remain in the program and that there would be no major shifts in the risk distribution. We projected the 10 Tier-I cities would get the same proportion of the total that they received in FY2010, but of course this would be less money since it started with a lower top-line amount. We projected identical cuts of 20% across the 64 UASI cities.
We called this scenario “improbable” for a number of reasons, focusing instead on a “most likely” second scenario in which a significant number of Tier-II cities would be cut entirely from the program while Tier-I cities would remain at their (real) FY2010 funding levels. This turned out to be very close to what happened: Tier I did in fact remain intact, and the only unanticipated shift was the addition of San Diego. As for Tier II, our estimate of 22 cities cut turned out to be 33, only eight cities shy of a more extreme third scenario we deemed “unlikely,” despite its resemblance to several cutback proposals from Congress.
In explaining the FEMA allocations, DHS pointed out that: “Current intelligence reflects that Al Qaeda, its affiliates and its allies remain focused on carrying out attacks in major US cities such as New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington DC and against our aviation and surface transportation infrastructure.” As we have noted in prior posts, however, imposing cutbacks on smaller cities – as fiscally necessary as that might be just now – creates serious challenges for those affected. The intelligence trove discovered at Osama bin Laden’s Pakistan compound early this month drove home the point by making it abundantly clear that al-Qaeda is interested in targeting more than just New York and Washington these days.
Others in the homeland security community who anticipated similar UASI cuts have been zeroing in on this point for months. Among the more well-informed commentaries and opinion pieces on the subject are Josh Filler’s February 14 post on the Emergency Management blog on the looming FEMA grant reductions, and an All Hands piece by Steve Davis entitled The Terrorist Threat is not Limited to the 10 Largest Cities.
This is the fifth installment of a six-part analysis of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s FY2011 homeland security grant programs, including comparisons with prior-year funding and assessments of how key grant programs will be distributed. In the sixth and final segment in this series we will evaluate the broader impact of major FY2011 grant program allocations on states and cities.
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