Nevada delegation cheers renewal of anti-terror funding to Las Vegas

Tue, Mar 18, 2014 (5:24 p.m.)

After a full-court press from the Nevada congressional delegation, the Department of Homeland Security is restoring special counterterrorism funding to Las Vegas.

“I’m pleased that U.S. Department of Homeland Security has once again understood that Las Vegas deserves these important funds to help prepare our community and law enforcement to respond in the event of a disaster,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday.

Last year, Las Vegas didn’t make the cut of cities to receive money from the department's Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) after the number of recipient cities was capped at the 25 considered the most risk-prone.

Members of the delegation representing Southern Nevada attempted to plead Las Vegas’ case, even attempting legislation to include Las Vegas and nine other cities on the UASI list.

Those efforts were unsuccessful. But in in fiscal 2014, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide 39 cities with the funding.

Las Vegas will receive $1 million of the $578 million being distributed.

It’s not a huge percentage, but the provision of UASI funding to Las Vegas reflects an understanding by Homeland Security that its current risk assessment model leaves cities like Las Vegas and other tourist destinations — such as Orlando, Fla. — out of consideration.

“It does not adequately factor in the unique characterization and needs of tourism-based economies like the one I represent,” Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., told Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson in a hearing last month, requesting that the risk assessment model be reviewed.

“I understand the concerns around potential threats to tourism,” Johnson told Horsford. “I get that.”

The risk assessment method hasn’t yet been completely changed. But Las Vegas was able to make the cut this year because of language put in the fiscal 2014 budget, which allowed Homeland Security to name other recipient cities as necessary.

“While (Homeland Security) has not yet changed the modeling with which they assess risk, today’s announcement is a step in the right direction toward accurately evaluating the threats posed to Las Vegas and the Silver State,” Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., said.

Now the goal of the Nevada delegation shifts to ensuring the funding doesn’t disappear again.

“I applaud the decision to award Las Vegas this crucial grant funding, which will be utilized to keep both Las Vegas residents and visitors safe,” Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., said. “I remain committed to working to ensure that this funding is maintained in the future so that our local law enforcement and homeland security officials can adequately defend the city against terrorist threats.”

“I have been calling on (Homeland Security) to include Las Vegas on the UASI list since our community was unwisely omitted from the program last year,” said Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev. “I will continue to press to improve their risk analysis to better reflect the needs of Southern Nevada.”

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