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Published: Tuesday, 6/6/2006

The not-so-big Apple?

TOP officials at the Homeland Security Department, the folks charged with keeping us safe from terrorist attack, might want to take the day off and visit New York City. They could act like tourists.

First, they might see the State of Liberty, this nation's evocative symbol of freedom, the welcoming sight that greeted so many immigrants who now call this country home.

Next, on to the Brooklyn Bridge, an iconic structure, and from there to the United Nations building and the Empire State Building, the very epitome of an American skyscraper.

After their tour, they could then explain to angry New Yorkers how they figure that New York City has no national monuments or icons, and can therefore endure a dramatic cut in anti-terrorism funding.

Falling back on the old line that anyone can mess up, but it takes a government outfit to really make a hash of things, we offer the Homeland Security Department our "shoot yourself in the foot" award for this month.

New York isn't alone in facing a reduction in anti-terror funds. Its allocation was down from $207 to $124 million, while Washington, the only other American city attacked on 9/11, and its surrounding area, was cut from $77.5 million to $46 million.

Here in Ohio, funds are being cut from $26.1 million to $17.6 million; Toledo's share is trimmed from $5.3 million to $3.8 million.

Mayor Michael Coleman of Columbus likened the trims to the feds saying "Do it yourself, best of luck." Or, as the New York Daily News put it, "Feds To City: Drop Dead."

New York lawmakers are outraged, as expected, and understandably so.

The aftershocks of the 9/11 attacks still reverberate loudly in New York. Security for national events, such as political conventions and the New Year's Eve celebrations, is tight and expensive. Internationally recognized landmarks remain tempting targets for those who would harm our nation.

New York authorities were planning to use Homeland Security funds for a so-called "ring of steel" around parts of the city, mass transit protection, counterterrorism training, and other measures.

Faced with the deserved outcry, and calls for the resignation of Michael Chertoff, Homeland Security chief, a top department official now says the agency will review its bizarre finding.

Fine, but what possessed it to make such a dumb call in the first place?

Surely officials have not grown so complacent in Washington that they would suggest security funding is no longer a top priority in the city which paid the greatest price on 9/11.

With this country embroiled in Afghanistan and Iraq, with relations between the United States and Iran deteriorating, and anti-American sentiment pervasive in many regions of the Middle East, it is an extraordinary idea that we would let down our guard at home.

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