Homeland security funds few


Local agencies in Clark County are competing against applicants from across the state for a piece of Nevada’s federal homeland security funding.

This year, there is increased competition for the funding, which could mean less money for other areas of the state.

For the first year, the Las Vegas metropolitan area was dropped from a federal program that provides urban areas with funding from the Department of Homeland Security. This year alone, the region received about $1.6 million.

In recent years, that program poured millions of dollars into the region’s homeland security efforts, including the Southern Nevada Counter-Terrorism Center, where possible threats and intelligence are analyzed.

The center plays a key role in assessing potential dangers to the Las Vegas Valley, which is Nevada’s population and economic hub.

The federal government’s decision to drop Las Vegas from its urban security funding program has a potential impact for residents in the rest of the state who already tap into homeland security funding provided to the state itself. Here’s why: The state’s Division of Emergency Management only has about $3.4 million of federal dollars for Nevada agencies. By contrast, there are about $7.5 million in 38 applications vying for the dollars.

That figure includes applications for projects that previously would have received the axed urban homeland security funding.

The end result is a limited pool of dollars and an increased need for all applicants to show their value and role in homeland security efforts that can benefit the state on a wide scale.

“The fact that we have been dropped from the urban area funding list doesn’t mean we are not eligible for any funding at all,” said Irene Navis, plans and operations coordinator for the Clark County’s Office of Emergency Management. “What it means is we are in competition with the rest of the state for projects statewide in a way that’s a little different.”

For example, the Southern Nevada Counter-Terrorism Center is applying for almost $1 million to cover needs such as equipment, software licensing, maintenance and training.

In the past, the federal Urban Area Security Initiative program would have covered that. Now other contenders include the Reno Fire Department’s hazardous materials response team and a mass casualty ambulance bus based in Northern Nevada’s Humboldt General Hospital that could transport more than 15 victims in an emergency.

The final outcome isn’t known yet — for Southern Nevada agencies or those elsewhere in the state.

Ultimately, agencies will need to work together across regions to save money and boost efficiencies, officials said.

“We have to roll up our sleeves and work together for the good of everyone,” said Chris Smith, chief of the state’s Division of Emergency Management.

For instance, the state’s Nevada Threat Analysis Center does work in analyzing threats similar to what the center in Las Vegas does. Those two centers are a good example of how two different efforts can have a statewide impact by working together, Smith said.

In the homeland security business, sharing information is key to eyeballing potential terrorist threats.

Las Vegas police Capt. Chris Jones of the Southern Nevada Counter-Terrorism Center said the funding loss doesn’t hit personnel costs, but it would potentially affect its long-term ability to share information. That’s because of the need to maintain equipment and license the complex software at the center, also called the Fusion Center. Eighteen agencies use that center.

“The primary function of the Fusion Center is to collect and share that information,” Jones said. “We make sure that information is shared throughout the state and sometimes at a national level.”

More will be known in several weeks.

The State’s Homeland Security Grant Working Group, which has representation from across the state, will give input on priorities to the State’s Homeland Security Commission. From there, the commission will rank applicants and submit a list and application to the federal Department of Homeland Security by June 24.

From there, state and local officials will wait for final approval of the projects from the federal government, which will likely happen in late August or September.

Contact reporter Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal.com or 702-405-9781.

 

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