More homeland security money directed to Miami, Orlando, Tampa
Image via AP.

The grants help cities train, plan and gear up for potential terrorist attacks.

Orlando, Tampa and South Florida will get another round of federal money to pay for anti-terrorism training and programs through the ​​Department of Homeland Security’s Urban Area Security Initiative.

Orlando Democratic Rep. Val Demings, who helped push through reforms five years ago to allow cities like Orlando to qualify, announced this year’s allocations. Law enforcement departments in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach market will get $14.75 million; the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater market will receive $3.8 million; and the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford area will get $3.8 million.

The amounts are the same as last year’s grants, but up from what the cities received the previous three years.

For a while in the mid-2010s, the federal government tightened standards on which cities qualified as potential terrorism targets in need of federal help. Orlando missed the new population cutoff and got dropped for a few years.

Central Florida’s members have sought to convince agency officials that Orlando’s 75 million or so annual visitors should also be factored toward concluding whether the city is an enticing terrorism target. That effort started with then-Reps. Alan Grayson, a Democrat, and John Mica, a Republican. Demings has continued the push alongside Democratic Reps. Stephanie Murphy and Darren Soto.

In 2018, Demings and lawmakers from similar cities that swell from tourism, such as San Antonio, got an amendment approved in legislation that expanded the definition of potential urban targets.

Before the Department relented in 2018, Orlando became the site of a horrific terrorism attack, the 2016 mass murder at the Pulse nightclub.

The program provides cities with money to help with terror-prevention planning, organization, equipment, training and exercises in urban areas that could be potential targets.

Nationally, $616 million was allocated for the program. The allotments are based on the alignment of local programs to the four national priority areas: cybersecurity, soft targets or crowded places, intelligence and information sharing and emerging threats.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].


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