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Security aid may increase for area Formula change works in Buffalo's favor

The Buffalo metro area, which was set to lose out on millions in federal homeland security funding this year because of a controversial formula change, is likely to instead get more money under new guidelines that U.S. officials could reveal as soon as today.

Sources said the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is expected to scrap its much-criticized formula for determining funding for the Urban Area Security Initiative which ranked the Buffalo area last among 46 major urban areas in homeland security risk in 2006.

Under that formula, the Buffalo area would have been ineligible to apply this year for funding under the program, which brought the region $3.7 million in 2006 and upwards of $10 million in previous years.

But sources said the new funding formula will be far more beneficial to Erie and Niagara counties, partly because it is expected to put more emphasis on intelligence information about terror threats in particular areas and on proximity to a national border.

Local officials have long advocated such a change, arguing that the arrest of the Lackawanna Six and terror suspects in nearby Canada proves that Western New York is vulnerable to terrorists.

The exact amount of funding the area will receive under the new formula will not be known until grant decisions are made in May, but congressional sources said they expect it to increase.

"I think we made a good case, and the case is obvious to all," said Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, who repeatedly pressed federal officials to change the funding formula. "We have the busiest border crossing."

Slaughter was part of a bipartisan effort to persuade the Department of Homeland Security to abandon a formula that cut funding for metro areas like New York City and Washington, D.C. while saying cities such as Toledo, Ohio, and Baton Rouge, La., were more likely terror targets than Buffalo.

Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, R-Clarence, brought Homeland Security Undersecretary George Foresman and Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, to the region to inspect its potential terror targets.

And Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles E. Schumer, both New York Democrats, weighed in with repeated letters to federal officials and press releases criticizing the old formula.

"If there's any city that deserves to be on this list [of cities eligible for funding], it's Buffalo," Schumer said. "And I'll do anything I can to make sure Buffalo is on the list."

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