Hawai`i gets $15 million for security

Hawai`i will receive $15 million in federal Homeland Security funds, Gov. Linda Lingle announced today, which will be directed toward equipment, the protection of critical infrastructure, and training first responders. The state’s share, per capita, is among the largest in the $1.5 billion grant package announced by the Department of Homeland Security.

“This amount is more than we originally anticipated,” Lingle said, giving some of the credit to Hawai`i Adjutant General Robert Lee, who went to Washington, D.C., recently to explain Hawaii’s “unique homeland security needs.”

The state grants are designated for either critical infrastructure or first responders, the former category set up specifically to reimburse local governments for what they have already spent. Hawai`i is receiving a $2 million reimbursement to help “pay for planning, training, equipment and exercises and other costs associated with enhanced security measures deployed during the heightened threat period.” The first responders portion is the remaining $13 million.

$119.2 million ($3.52 per person)
$13.1 million ($21.59 per person)
$70.1 million ($3.70 per person)
$13 million ($22.74 per person)
$78.2 million ($3.75 per person)
$12.7 million ($25.89 per person)

The formula the federal government used to determine how much money each state gets has drawn some criticism. While the population in each state was one of the main criteria — most-populous California getting the most money, least-populous Wyoming getting the least — a per-capita breakdown shows an almost opposite distribution pattern.

New York, for example, is the second most populous state, and received the third largest grant: $70 million. But divided by the state’s nearly 19 million residents, the funds amount to $3.70 for each resident. Wyoming, meanwhile, got the smallest grant, but its $12.7 million translates to $25.89 per person.

In terms of population, Hawaii’s 1.2 million residents ranks 47th. But the $15 million grant translates to $12.45 per person — the tenth-largest allocation in the nation.

“The debate over the allocation system is growing,” Mark Sauter, General Manager of the American Institute of Homeland Defense, told HawaiiNews.com. “There is increasing pressure to better prioritize such spending.”

Sauter asked: “When will the U.S. government targets by some weighted scoring of their criticality, vulnerability, or attractiveness to the terrorists, then prioritize money accordingly?”

Lingle has consistently stressed that Hawaii’s heavy military presence, strategic location, and symbolic sites brings challenges not seen anywhere else in the country. She also conceded, however, that costs were one of the many reasons the state did not raise its security level every time the federal government did.

Said Lee: “These funds will assist our first responders at the state and county level, while offsetting costs related to Hawai`i’s heightened alert during ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom.'”

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