Call it half a win for New York's dirty bomb detection system.
Congress decided today to give the city $20 million to keep building a network of radiation detectors aimed at stopping a terrorist from sneaking a nuclear or radioactive device into Manhattan.
That's only half what New York's representatives in the House wanted, and $10 million less than the program is getting in this year's budget. But it does maintain a cash flow for an effort homeland security officials regarded as temporary, and wanted to cut.
Long Island GOP Rep. Pete King, who sponsored the measure for the anti-nuke money, ripped the compromise as scrimping on the city's security.
"If New York gets only $20 million this is a clear setback, since just a few months ago the House passed the King amendment with $40 million," King said, adding that the insult is aggravated because New York will only get two-thirds of the current year's $30 million budget.
"The (Appropriations) Committee is only compounding the felony by shortchanging New York," King said, referring to the joint Senate-House panel that agreed on the funding. The Senate had only favored $10 million.
There's a catch for the cash, though. It is available through a competitive bidding program, and while New York is the only visible bidder, the stipulation gives final say on the money to homeland security bureaucrats who are not convinced the program, called Securing the Cities, is being run wisely.
Indeed, the chairman of the committee, Rep.David Price (D-N.C.) griped that New York has only figured out how to spend about half the funding already earmarked for Securing the Cities. "$34 million does remain yet to be obligated for a fixed-site detection system once New York and the New York Police Department finalize the concept and design. So that money is available," said Price.
He offered a bone to the city, though, suggesting the program should be made permanent in future budgets.
New Yorkers on the panel preferred to look at the funding agreement as a glass half full, noting that at least the money was going where it was most needed.
"Far too often the areas targeted (for security money), which terrorists couldn't even find on a map, receive funds at the expense of high-risk cities," said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-Westchester).
"This is a good bill, but I think we all have to remain vigilant to make sure it continues to adequately support the initiative protecting our most at-risk area," she said.
City officials did not respond to requests for comment.