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SUNY Canton and Clarkson University remain in the running to jointly host a homeland security program being financed in the state budget.

In highlighting aspects of his executive budget in January, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo revealed his plan to create a College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity within the SUNY system. The budget approved by the New York State Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Cuomo this week allocates $15 million for the initial planning and development of such a program.

“SUNY Canton, in partnership with Clarkson University and local leaders, wants to become the focal point of this initiative,” according to a March 28 story in the Watertown Daily Times. “The college already has degree programs in homeland security and emergency management, while Clarkson University’s computer science department employs cybersecurity experts. St. Lawrence County’s proximity to the U.S./Canada border and Fort Drum also provides a potential benefit because of the opportunity to create partnerships with U.S. Border Patrol agents and nearby Department of Homeland Security officials.”

The budget negotiations raised questions of how the governor’s proposal would be implemented. Officials at SUNY Canton didn’t know if their bid to host the new program would survive the budget debates that occurred between legislators.

“The state Assembly budget calls for investing money into existing programs statewide rather than creating a new training headquarters,” according to the March 28 story, published before the budget was approved. “The Senate’s budget supports the governor’s plan but insists the program be located in Syracuse.”

Lenore VanderZee, a spokeswoman for SUNY Canton, said Tuesday that Gov. Cuomo’s idea to create this new headquarters — along with the $15 million in funding — remained intact in the final budget. In a telephone conference Wednesday with newspaper editorial writers from throughout the state, Gov. Cuomo confirmed that the funding for the plan has been set aside but that no institution has yet been selected to host the program. He said that decision will be made within the next few months.

The access that SUNY Canton and Clarkson University officials have to representatives of Fort Drum and the U.S. Border Patrol, as well as their own academic programs, make their bid a natural for this plan. It’s good that their proposal is still on the table, and we urge Gov. Cuomo to consider the benefits and award them the funding to move his idea forward.

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