A senator pressed to eliminate a planned cut to New York City disaster-response funds after President Obama alluded to possible nuclear threats to Manhattan.
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) lashed the federal government on Wednesday for proposing to cut local “Securing the Cities” funding by more than half in fiscal 2015, dropping the annual budget from $11 million to $4.7 million. The program began in 2006 as a pilot initiative to bolster New York City’s defenses against nuclear or radiological attacks, and has since expanded to the Los Angeles area.
The Homeland Security Department “must recognize the problem with their decision and reverse it immediately,” Schumer said in a press release. The statement says the proposed funding reduction would “deal a major blow” to radiation-sensor activities by local law enforcement.
The plea came a day after Obama said that concerns about Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region are minimal when compared with the danger of a possible nuclear strike.
“Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbors,” Obama said on the second day of the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, Netherlands. “I continue to be much more concerned when it comes to our security with the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan.”
In a clarification, the White House on Wednesday said Obama was not referring to any specific threat to New York City.
“The president was not discussing intelligence,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in an e-mail to Bloomberg.
Still, Schumer seized on the president’s remark in his released comments.
“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?” the senator said.