In backing GOP budget, Gardner, Coffman vote to end anti-terrorism grants for Denver

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Colorado FBI agents during a 2009 on the Aurora apartment of convicted terrorist Najibullah Zazi. The successful dragnet was aided by federal anti-terrorism grant money that would be cut off under a House GOP budget plan that passed on Thursday.

DENVER — The Republican budget proposal that passed the U.S. House on Thursday with support from Colorado Congressmen Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman includes some $5 trillion in spending cuts.

Among those cuts are some $3 million in federal anti-terrorism grants that Denver has received since 2007 but would stand to lose if the budget were to pass the Senate and be signed into law (it won’t).

The budget drawn up by the House Budget Chairman, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, is really a symbolic document: proof positive, Republicans believe, that they are serious about what they believe are modest cuts to federal spending; and a millstone to Democrats, already arguing that it’s evidence the GOP wants cuts to popular government programs, sweeping and controversial changes to Medicare, and tax cuts for the rich.

As such, it’s no wonder that Democrats are hammering Gardner and Coffman over Colorado-specific cuts to the Urban Area Security Initiative, which has provided U.S. cities with anti-terrorism funding since shortly after 9/11.

Under the Ryan budget, the grants would continue only for “Tier 1” cities like New York City and Los Angeles; Denver, a “Tier 2” city, would lose out.

“In this budget, Congressman Coffman is bending over backward to protect giveaways to special interests and the ultra-wealthy – even if it means that the people of Colorado lose out on vital law enforcement grants,” said Josh Schwerin of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“Congressman Coffman didn’t think twice about throwing local mayors and first responders, and police under the bus just to boost special interests’ bottom line.”

Coffman’s campaign brushed off the criticism Friday.

“As the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said, debt is our greatest threat to national security,” said Coffman campaign spokesman Tyler Sandberg.

“To suggest that we can’t balance the budget – not this year, or next year, but in 10 years – without jeopardizing national security is an attack so absurd and so sleazy that only Andrew Romanoff and his surrogates would make it.”

Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, who Gardner is challenging this fall, also ripped the Republican for the budget vote.

“Gardner’s vote in favor of the Ryan budget is a window into his values and priorities,” said Chris Harris, Udall’s campaign spokesman. “The fact that he chose to give millionaires an $87,000 tax cut at the expense of children, seniors, and victims of domestic violence is further proof that he can’t be trusted to protect Colorado’s special way of life.”

To get beyond the politics, FOX31 Denver asked Jim Davis, the former FBI agent-in-charge of the Denver office and the former director of the Colorado Dept. of Public Safety, how important the UASI grants are to cities like Denver.

“They’re pretty important,” said Davis, who had actually just written an article on this very subject in response to a study from Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, who has pushed for the federal government to defund “fusion centers” like the Colorado Information Analysis Center.

The CIAC, Davis said, played a vital role in the successful 2009 dragnet his office led of Najibullah Zazi, the Aurora shuttle bus driver who conspired to detonate homemade bombs in the NYC subway but was detected early by the FBI.

“Fusion centers provide a formalized environment allowing the successful integration of law enforcement and intelligence community resources, as called for by the 9/11 Commission Report,” Davis wrote in the article for this month’s issue of Police Chief Magazine.

“During the Zazi investigation, the CIAC performed precisely this mission. It served as the link between federal agencies and their state and local counterparts.

“It makes little sense to seek to end vital federal funding for a program that played an important role in the country’s most successful domestic counterterrorism operation,” Davis concluded.



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