The U.S. Homeland Security Department on Monday stated that an initiative aimed at defending New York City against a nuclear or radiological attack would be made permanent, Newsday reported (see GSN, Feb. 15).
The Securing the Cities pilot initiative originated in 2006 and has enabled New York City and neighboring jurisdictions to acquire close to 6,000 nuclear detection items, according to Homeland Security.
The department in 2009 and 2010 attempted to zero funding for the program, asserting that the New York Police Department had not used all appropriated dollars and that the effort needed to be reassessed. Lawmakers in Congress, particularly those from New York, successfully fought to secure money to keep the project alive.
There have been questions about the efficacy of the effort, which to date has doled out $69.2 million in federal grants for equipment purchases by the New York Police Department, Newsday reported.
Enhanced equipment persuaded Homeland Security to reverse course on the program, according to one official. The department requested $27 million in its fiscal 2012 budget proposal for Securing the Cities, and intends to put the program into place in a second city.
Making Securing the Cities permanent should make it less difficult going forward to secure federal funding for the effort, said Representative Peter King (R-N.Y.).
"It's a significant security victory for New York," said King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
Meanwhile, a five-day exercise aimed at testing the ability of authorities in New York City and surrounding jurisdictions' ability to prevent a radiological "dirty bomb" attack began on Tuesday (see GSN, March 14).
The drill involves law enforcement and emergency personnel from 150 agencies in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. It seeks to test their capacity to identify and interdict dangerous radiological materials.
"It brings together everything we've done over the past three or four years into one big effort to examine it, to see where we've succeeded and to see where we've failed, and to see what we need to do better," said Warren Stern, who heads the Homeland Security Department's Domestic Nuclear Detection Office.
Suffolk County Police Deputy Chief Mark White said the training would involve detecting a fake radiological substance somewhere in Long Island Sound on Thursday and using radiation sensing equipment on the Long Island Expressway or the Sunrise Highway two days later (Tom Brune, Newsday, April 5).