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Al-Qaida provides evidence of the need to restore region’s security funding

Maybe now Washington will listen. With an al-Qaida magazine noting Buffalo’s charms as a terrorist target, perhaps the federal government will restore the security funding that was taken away.

It is at least mildly alarming to find that the magazine, Inspire, is reporting to potential terrorists that Buffalo Niagara is not prepared for an attack. While the observation may be a misrepresentation of comments made in Congress by Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, that may not mean much to people who place no value on human life and who thirst for places to impose their bloody will.

The region received more than $53 million between fiscal 2003 and 2011 from a federal grant program begun after the 2001 terror attacks on New York City, the Pentagon and over Pennsylvania. Since then, though, the area has received nothing as the Department of Homeland Security more than halved the number of communities receiving the grants.

The department’s theory, one we agree with, is that the money ought to be concentrated in the most likely terror targets. The problem arises in determining how those areas are determined.

The Niagara Frontier is a border region, which makes it attractive to terrorists who can try to disrupt trade. It is home to a massive power plant that produces some of the least-expensive electricity in the country. It has two big-league sports teams for which tens of thousands of fans gather at a time. It has an internationally famous tourist attraction at Niagara Falls. It sits on the world’s largest inland source of fresh water. All of that makes this a tempting target.

So how is it, then, that this region has received no funding for two consecutive years, while cities such as Cleveland, Charlotte and Salt Lake City somehow received grants this year? Higgins says he has asked leaders of the Department of Homeland Security for an explanation. It has not been forthcoming.

Previous grants have been used here to improve communications and to buy equipment that would be used in case of a terrorist attack. Those improvements helped in other ways, as well, Higgins said, noting the region’s response to the crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407, the 2009 Gowanda floods and the 2006 October snowstorm.

But those improvements require ongoing support. Equipment ages, priorities change. Western New York is an area that needs that funding, certainly more than some others, as even al-Qaida now recognizes.

This is a matter for which our entire congressional delegation should demand action. Higgins understands the threat, but he needs the added muscle of Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, and the state’s two senators to push Homeland Security into providing this region the funding that it so obviously needs.

Yes, there are other more tempting targets, including New York City, which Inspire desires to see car-bombed. That city needs all the funding it can get, but it’s also a target that has been hardened over the years. When that happens, terrorists look for easier prey. Today, we are that.