DHS forms funding task force

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In response to some local government complaints that homeland security funding isn't flowing down to first responders, Homeland Security Department Secretary Tom Ridge announced the formation of a multigovernmental task force to examine the funding process and ensure it's working effectively.

Chaired by Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the 20-member task force is composed of governors, mayors, county and tribal leaders, and other government officials and will serve under the direction of the Homeland Security Advisory Council and its state and local emergency response advisory committees.

"It is critical that the men and women on the frontlines of the war against terror have the resources they need to do their jobs," Ridge said in a press release. "By identifying best practices and determining ways to implement them across the country, the task force will put homeland security dollars into the hands of first responders more rapidly." Federal officials have said the federal government has distributed more than $8 billion in homeland security grants to state and local governments since last year. But mayors have complained that a majority of those funds have not trickled down to the local level as promised, many saying they're hung up at the state level.

A report by DHS' inspector general expected next month documents that the federal government has done a good job in dispersing such funds, but that they're being held up at the state level. In some cases, the states need to ensure they're not duplicating efforts and that the process is effective, the report is expected to say.

Mayor Donald Plusquellic of Akron, Ohio, is vice chairman of the task force. Other notable members include Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, who is also the chairman of the National Governors Association; Virginia Gov. Mark Warner; Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner; Mayor Anthony Williams of Washington, D.C.; and Mayor James Garner of Hempstead, N.Y., who is the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

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