Las Vegas Sun

November 24, 2017

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Funding cut jeopardizes future of Las Vegas anti-terrorism center


Jackie Valley

Officials in the analytics section of the Southern Nevada Counter Terrorism Center monitor information via police dispatches, Internet activity and news stations on New Year’s Eve.

Las Vegas area officials are pushing the federal government to reconsider a decision that could cost Clark County $1.8 million in Homeland Security funding, effectively shuttering the region’s counter-terrorism center.

For years, Metro Police has received funding from the Department of Homeland Security to operate the Southern Nevada Counter-Terrorism Center.

Specifics about the center’s operations are secret, but it is generally responsible for preparing for, preventing and responding to potential terrorist activity in the Las Vegas Valley.

“We’re down to the area where it’s extremely dangerous. If we lose the remaining funding we have left, it’s a huge concern,” county Commissioner Steve Sisolak said. “I don’t know how we’re going to be able to make up that funding...The potential future of the center is in jeopardy.”

The amount of federal funding the center receives, which accounts for the majority of its budget, has dropped from a high of $9 million in 2008 to a low of $1.8 million last year.

The funding is allocated to cities based on a formula that weighs the threat of an attack, a city’s vulnerability and the potential consequences of an attack.

Las Vegas fell three spots in this year’s rankings, from 30 to 33, which will likely result in it receiving no funding.

In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, local leaders argue that the funding formula didn’t adequately account for the 40 million tourists who visit Las Vegas each year and the large number of high-profile events the city hosts.

“On one corner of the Strip we have more hotel rooms than most of the cities have in their entire jurisdiction. We have major special events — New Year’s Eve, the marathon, Electric Daisy Carnival, NASCAR,” said Commissioner Larry Brown. “It just doesn’t seem practical that Las Vegas as an international destination would not only be taken off the list but not moved up the list, especially in light of what happened in Boston.”

Nevada’s Congressional delegation has also been engaged to lobby for the funding, with Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Dina Titus writing letters to Napolitano asking for more information to justify Las Vegas’s drop in the rankings.

In his letter, Reid wrote that Las Vegas would be at a “significant disadvantage in preparedness, response and recovery capabilities” without the Homeland Security funds.

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