Gov. Sandoval Calls For Reassessment Of Homeland Security Funding Priorities

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval today called for a reassessment of Nevada’s homeland security priorities given the news that federal funding for the ongoing fight against terrorism could be as much as 47 percent less in the 2012 federal fiscal year compared to last year.

Sandoval, who serves as the chairman of the Homeland Security Commission, noted that the panel’s priorities were last established in October 2010, before he was elected governor, and before many members of the current panel had been appointed to serve.

“It would helpful to me for us to go through that exercise again with the permission of the other members of the commission,” Sandoval said. “And also to have somewhat, of what I guess for lack of a better term is, a ‘state of homeland security’ both within Nevada and federally and where we may be, where we need to be, where we’re deficient.

A review of priorities would give the commission and Chris Smith, the new chief of the Nevada Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, an opportunity to have, “a reset for all of us to ensure that we’re all on the same page,” he said.

The commission agreed and set a special meeting for Jan. 7 in Las Vegas that will include a tour of the Southern Nevada Counter Terrorism Center, also known as a fusion center.

Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie said the federal funding cuts being contemplated to states and local governments for homeland security would be on top of cuts this past 2011 fiscal year from 2010. The 2012 federal fiscal year began Oct. 1.

Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie.

“If you take all of the state homeland security money that comes to the local programs to include UASI (Urban Area Security Initiative) dollars, at the federal level right now at the Senate you are looking at close to a 47 percent reduction coming to state and local than that which you saw in 2011,” he said.

“So it’s even more important that we’re very specific and judicious with this money that is coming forth to the states because that funding stream is becoming significantly smaller than that which we’ve been used to in the past,” Gillespie said.

The commission also has to be flexible when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issues guidelines on where the spending priorities should be, he said. Submitting grants that don’t focus on those priorities won’t get funded, Gillespie said.

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Nevada was eligible for $21 million in grants in 2010, but only $14.5 million in 2011.

Funding could have been even lower but members of the House of Representatives, including Reps. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., and Joe Heck, R-Nev., rejected a proposal to make UASI funding available only to the nation’s 10 largest cities, which would have excluded Las Vegas.

Washoe County Sheriff Michael Haley said the reassessment should also evaluate which projects are achievable given current funding levels, and how close Nevada is to accomplishing those objectives.

The Homeland Security Commission has seen major changes since Sandoval took over as chairman of the panel. Several long-time members have left and new members are learning about the operation of the commission.

There are 14 voting members of the commission, all appointed by Sandoval. There are also non-voting members, including two representatives of the Legislature. There was some concern expressed at the August meeting that lawmaker representatives were not attending the meetings.

Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, the new Senate representative and a candidate for the new Congressional 4 seat, attended his first meeting. But Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, the new representative replacing Speaker John Oceguera, did not attend the meeting.

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Audio clips

Gov. Brian Sandoval says the state’s homeland security priorities need to be revisited:

110211Sandoval1 :21 where we’re deficient.”

Sandoval says the members of the Homeland Security Commission need to make sure they are in agreement on those priorities:

110211Sandoval2 :10 the same page.”

Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie says federal homeland security funding could face major cutbacks in 2012:

110211Gillespie1 :21 saw in 2011.”

Gillespie says Nevada has to be even more judicious in how it spends its limited federal homeland security funding:

110211Gillespie2 :18 in the past.”