By Tom Brune
A day after President Barack Obama said his biggest worry is a nuclear blast in Manhattan, New York lawmakers complained Wednesday that U.S. Department of Homeland Security plans to cut funds for New York City's nuclear detection program by 50 percent.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Pete King (R-Seaford) said they are working with Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to reverse the decision to slash New York's Securing the Cities funds to $4.7 million next year from the current $11 million.
"As President Obama correctly noted, our biggest fear is a nuclear weapon going off in New York City, so why would DHS want to cut funding for such a vital program here? asked Schumer.
King said, "I have emphasized to Secretary Johnson, and he agrees, that New York is the number one terrorist target in the country. President Obama's statement yesterday about his greatest fear being of a nuclear blast in New York City makes Securing the Cities all the more important and essential."
Officials at the Department of Homeland Security and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
On Tuesday, Obama dismissed Russia as the No. 1 national security threat to the United States. Instead, he said, "I continue to be much more concerned when it comes to our security with the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan."
Obama's proposed budget, however, cuts the Securing the Cities program -- which helps New York and other cities pay for nuclear and radiation detection -- from $22 million to $12 million., King said.
In a hearing last week on the Homeland Security budget, King told Johnson he was concerned about plan to lessen local reliance on federal funds for nuclear detection, calling a 50 percent cut "unreasonable."
Johnson replied that "despite the reduction in that specific program, we're in a position to leverage other programs to make sure that all the cities including New York are adequately funded."
Johnson added said he takes New York City personally.
"I'm a New Yorker. I was there on 9/11," he said. "My second day on the job I went back to Ground Zero."
New York's Securing the Cities funds have been cut before, from $18 million last year to $11 million this year, as DHS sent funds to San Francisco, Schumer said.
Schumer and King said they called Johnson Wednesday to urge a reversal of the cuts.
But King said New York City, Long Island and Westchester County were getting an increase in Homeland Security Urban Area Security Initiative grants -- a total of $178.9 million next year, up from $174.3 million this year.
And a separate federal homeland security grant to New York State, King said, was expected to rise to $76.7 million from $66.7 million.