Posts Tagged ‘Homeland Security Commission’

Gov. Sandoval Calls For Reassessment Of Homeland Security Funding Priorities

By Sean Whaley | 5:23 pm November 2nd, 2011

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.”

 

Nevada Legislative Representatives Are No Shows At Homeland Security Commission Meetings

By Sean Whaley | 4:20 pm August 18th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The Nevada Legislature’s representatives at the state Homeland Security Commission meetings have been no shows this year, and the lack of participation is being cited as a concern by members of the panel, including Gov. Brian Sandoval.

The commission met Wednesday and Bob Fisher, president and CEO of the Nevada Broadcasters Association and a member of the commission, said the failure of legislative leaders to either attend or send alternates to the meeting is a concern.

His concern was echoed by Sandoval, who is now serving as the chairman of the commission.

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, is listed as a nonvoting member of the panel but he did not attend the meeting.

Fisher said the Senate majority leadership has not yet selected a representative to serve on the commission.

Nevada state law says the Senate majority leader and Assembly speaker are to appoint one non-voting member each.

Sandoval appoints the 14 voting members of the commission.

The previous representative from the Senate was former Sen. Dennis Nolan, R-Las Vegas, who attended many of the commission meetings during his tenure.

According to minutes of the commission meetings and workshops, Oceguera attended one of 14 meetings since Jan. 2009, in June of 2009. No member of the Senate has attended a meeting this year.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, could not be reached for comment.

In response to the concerns, Oceguera said that as a non-voting member, his presence is not required at every meeting of the commission.

“That being said, I am in constant contact with members of the committee and I’m fully briefed on the committee’s important work,” he said. “Further, as an assistant fire chief, my job entails dealing with homeland security issues on a daily basis.”

Oceguera said that with his time in the Legislature coming to an end, he is in the process of appointing a new Assembly representative to the commission.

Fisher said that if legislative leaders cannot attend, then maybe they could designate alternates to represent the Legislature at the meetings.

Bob Fisher, president and CEO of the Nevada Broadcasters Association and member of the Nevada Homeland Security Commission.

Fisher said the failure of lawmakers to attend the meetings has been raised as a concern at previous meetings as well.

“I think it is a concern because look at the meeting today,” he said. “There is so much that has been covered.”

Earlier in the meeting on a separate agenda item, Fisher said a majority of the Legislature does not know what the Nevada Homeland Security Commission does. The comment came during a discussion about the need to get increased federal funding for Nevada’s anti-terrorism efforts.

Fisher said the commission will approach the Legislature in 2013 on various issues, and having members who attend the meetings and who are up to speed on those issues would be beneficial.

Sandoval agreed that legislative participation is important.

If legislative leaders cannot attend, possibly they could designate alternates, he said.

“I couldn’t agree more,” Sandoval said.

In an interview today, Fisher put the blame for the failure to educate the Legislature on the activities of the commission on the panel itself, not lawmakers.

“I think over the years we’ve done a very, very poor job, or we haven’t done a good enough job, in helping to educate the public, let alone the legislators, on: This is the Homeland Security Commission, this is what we do, this is what we’re trying to achieve, this is what we’re working (on) to make all of Nevada safer,” he said.

This is why it is important to have legislators attend the meetings, Fisher said.

The effort to get changes to state law on behalf of the commission in the 2011 session was a challenge, but it was the fault of the commission, not the Legislature, he said.

“It is a failure of the commission to communicate adequately,” Fisher said.

This will likely change with Sandoval deciding to serve personally as chairman of the commission, he said.

“Having Gov. Sandoval as the chairman of the Homeland Security Commission is the best thing to happen to homeland security in the state of Nevada,” Fisher said.

Past governors have designated others to serve on the panel on their behalf.

The meeting was the last for the panel before the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Kevin Favreau, special agent in charge, FBI Las Vegas, and a non-voting member of the panel, said that as the somber anniversary approaches, the commission has over the years created a system to keep Nevada safe.

He acknowledged the country is going into a period of heightened concern with the approach of the anniversary, but gave an optimistic assessment of Nevada’s readiness.

“Our director and others in our national security structure are very concerned about it because of the tape that was taken from when Osama bin Laden was killed, as it being a significant date, and also because of the potential for copycats or lone offenders, as we heard from Mr. Fisher; Mumbai-style attacks,” he said.

“But should anything happen, I’m confident that Metro and others in the northern part of the state are very ready to be able to respond, and of course we hope that doesn’t happen,” Favreau said. “But from a preventative aspect this commission has helped this state to be as ready as we can be to try to prevent it.”

Audio clips:

Commission member Bob Fisher says most members of the Legislature doesn’t know what the commission does:

081811Fisher1 :28 is responsible for.”

Fisher says the Wednesday meeting covered a range of important topics:

081811Fisher2 :05 has been covered.”

Fisher says the commission bears the responsibility for failing to educate lawmakers on what the panel does:

081811Fisher3 :28 of Nevada safer.”

Kevin Favreau, special agent in charge, FBI Las Vegas, says the upcoming anniversary of 9-11 is cause for concern:

081811Favreau1 :24 Mumbai-style attacks.”

Favreau says the work of the commission has ensured Nevada is ready to respond if need be:

081811Favreau2 :18 to prevent it.”