Homeland Security Commissioners, Sheriffs Frustrated With Lack of Progress

CARSON CITY – Members of Nevada’s Homeland Security Commission expressed frustration today that more than eight years after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, local law enforcement and other emergency responders still can’t communicate with each other when responding to an emergency.

Commission member and former Clark County Sheriff Jerry Keller said the lack of interoperable communications was a major problem in responding to those terrorist attacks, and Nevada still faces the issue after spending millions of dollars in federal funds in an effort to prepare for and prevent terrorist attacks.

“We’ve spent $200 million dollars of federal money in the state of Nevada, and we’re still in the same boat,” he said.

Keller said he would like a report at the next commission meeting on the status of the communications issue that would include a timeline on when the problem will be solved.

Robert Wideman, the newly hired interoperable communications coordinator for Nevada, said he shares the concerns expressed by Keller.

“I think your analysis of what has happened is spot on,” he said. “I guess my approach in the time I have been here is not to point fingers at anyone on what they did or didn’t do right, but rather to find a strategy to lead us out of this.”

Keller said: “I don’t want to point fingers, I just want a date.”

Commissioner and Washoe County Sheriff Michael Haley said he would like to see a document showing where interoperability remains an issue.

“Because we do have interoperability and operability within certain regions of this state, and there are projects to connect those areas that don’t have it,” he said. “I think we need to clear the air by having folks in this room that are qualified to explain where those things occur presently and where we need to focus our attention at.”

Commissioner and Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie agreed, saying progress has been made on interoperability since the terrorist attacks of 2001. But there are factors state emergency responders don’t have control over, he said.

“It’s not just the voice information that needs to be shared, it’s the data information that needs to be shared,” Gillespie said.

“I share my former boss’s frustration in dealing with this particular issue because we never actually seem to get there,” he said. “We keep moving but then the target gets moved on us.”

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