Cities nationwide spent about $70 million per week on additional Homeland security measures due to the war in Iraq and the national high state of threat alert, according to a 145-city survey by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
"Cities across America have been bearing the burden of additional Homeland security spending ¡ª including overtime costs for police and firefighters, as well as expensive new equipment needed to prepare for any possible biological or chemical attack," Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick told citizens and reporters at a Homeland Security Town Hall Meeting. "We definitely need funding."
The costs reflected in the survey are in addition to existing Homeland security spending already under way or planned since the Sept. 11 attacks. The survey only covers direct costs of new funding that had to be allocated for Homeland security because of the war or threat alert level.
While the fighting in Iraq has dissipated, and Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge has lowered the national threat level, spending during the height of the Iraq conflict points to an inherent problem across the nation. As soon as the threat level increases, so does spending.
Survey analysts say a six-month period of war and/or high alert status would cost cities nearly $2 billion, according to the rate of spending during the Iraq war.
The survey figures also exclude major equipment purchases or other security needs that are not directly related to the current state of alert and Homeland preparedness. A prior Conference of Mayors survey found cities expected to spend more than $2.6 billion on Homeland security between Sept. 11, 2001 and the end of 2002. The Fiscal Year 2003 Supplemental Budget request includes $2 billion to further support enhancements to state and local terrorism preparedness efforts as well as coordinated prevention and security enhancement for first responders. Analysts stress that these funds have already been accounted for in the majority of city budgets.
The weak economy has already severely pinched city budgets, making Homeland security costs even more difficult to fund. "Cities cannot bear these costs alone," the survey notes. "They need an effective and cooperative partnership with Washington on Homeland security."
According to the report, President Bush proposed a $74.7 billion supplement to pay for the war, which included an additional $1.4 billion for local governments ¡ª both cities and counties. However, the Conference of Mayors says it needed more. "This funding is simply insufficient to meet the needs of America's first responders and America's cities," the report says.
Additionally, the survey figures do not account for the huge indirect costs cities are experiencing. When a police officer normally assigned to anti-gang work is reassigned to guard a public building ¡ª it is an indirect but quite real cost for a city and its residents, the report notes.
"Cities are America's frontlines in ensuring Homeland security," says Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, chair of the Conference's Homeland Security Task Force. "We simply cannot fund robust Homeland security on the proceeds of local property taxes and fire hall bingos."
The 145 cities participating in the survey are geographically and politically diverse ¡ª ranging in size from 30,000 to 8 million in population. As a group, they spent more than $21.4 million per week on additional Homeland security efforts because of the war and national "orange" threat alert level.
BY THE NUMBERS
Top 10 Cities For Homeland Security Spending During The Recent "Orange" Alert
New York City
Source: Survey by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, March 27, 2003