Posts Tagged ‘Homeland Security’

Sandoval Asks For Assessment Of School Security

By Sean Whaley | 10:39 am December 20th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval today said he wants an assessment of how Nevada’s public schools are doing in regards to security following the horrific shooting deaths a week ago at a Connecticut elementary school.

Sandoval made the request as chairman of the state Homeland Security Commission, which met today by teleconference. A presentation will be prepared for the next meeting of the commission.

“I think it would be worthwhile perhaps if we had an item on the agenda where we could get some type of presentation of where our state stands in terms of school security,” he said. “I’m interested in terms of what is best practices and if there are things we need to recommend or do.

Gov. Brian Sandoval. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

“I also am curious in terms of fencing and single points of entry and buzzing in and out,” Sandoval said. “Just how we’re doing with the newer schools and the older schools. Perhaps it might be appropriate to have a representative from the two largest school districts.”

Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza forced his way into the elementary school, where he killed 26 adults and children before taking his own life.

Washoe County Sheriff Mike Haley said the review could include a discussion of a proposed “campus carry” bill being sought by Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, R-Las Vegas. The measure, first reported on by the Nevada News Bureau, would allow those with concealed weapons permits to carry their weapons on the campuses of the Nevada System of Higher Education. Concealed weapons are now prohibited on the campuses except for rare exceptions.

A similar bill proposed by former state Sen. John Lee in the 2011 session was the focus of intense debate but did not pass.

Haley said he opposed the bill in 2011 as president of the state Sheriffs and Chiefs Association. The higher education system also opposed the bill.

Haley said there should be a discussion about what the position of the commission should be in regards to the proposed law.

“As we all know, even though we are at a university with young men and women, we also have day care centers in those universities, we also have high school students meeting there for college-level training, and we have kids moving in and out of those facilities on a regular basis,” he said.

Adam Garcia, director of University Police Services at the University of Nevada, Reno, said he remains opposed to the bill as he did in 2011.

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Audio clips:

Gov. Brian Sandoval says he wants a report on the status of Nevada school security efforts:

122012Sandoval1 :08 of school security.”

Sandoval says he wants to know if Nevada schools are following best practices:

122012Sandoval2 :15 largest school districts.”

Washoe County Sheriff Mike Haley says there should also be a discussion of a proposed “campus carry” bill:

122012Haley :20 a regular basis.”

 

 

Deferred Action Program To Begin Accepting Applications Wednesday, 23,300 Potentially Eligible In Nevada

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 1:30 pm August 13th, 2012

CARSON CITYThe U.S. Department of Homeland Security will officially begin accepting applications Wednesday for “deferred action” from young immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and who meet other specific requirements.

DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano.

There are an estimated 23,300 potential beneficiaries of the program in Nevada, with a large majority, 18,570, from Mexico, according to estimates from the Immigration Policy Center (IPC).

The IPC estimates there are approximately 1.4 million immigrants currently in the United States who might meet the requirements of the deferred action initiative, either now or when they are older.

The IPC is releasing an updated Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals: A Q&A Guide outlining the basic facts about the initiative, including eligibility requirements and important information on process and timing.

The IPC also recently released estimates on who is eligible and where they live in its fact sheet, “Who and Where the DREAMers Are: A Demographic Profile of Immigrants Who Might Benefit from the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action Initiative.” This analysis breaks down the population potentially eligible for deferred action by nationality and age at the national and state level, as well as the Congressional District level.

The report shows there are 11,630 potential beneficiaries in the 1st Congressional District in Nevada currently represented by Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev. An estimated 7,300 beneficiaries aged 15- to 30-years-old are immediately eligible, with another 4,330 future beneficiaries now aged 5- to 14-years old.

There are 5,130 estimated beneficiaries in the 2nd Congressional District represented by Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., with 3,390 eligible now and 1,740 eligible in the future.

There are 6,540 estimated beneficiaries in the 3rd Congressional District represented by Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., with 4,360 immediately eligible and 2,180 eligible in the future.

The action by the Obama Administration has become a campaign issue in the new 4th Congressional District in Nevada, with Republican candidate Danny Tarkanian calling it a ploy for Hispanic votes and state Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, supporting the action.

The Legal Action Center (LAC) has released a practice advisory analyzing DHS guidance regarding the eligibility criteria and application process for the initiative. It also offers strategic advice for attorneys representing individuals who may qualify for deferred action under this initiative. The LAC issued this advisory jointly with the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano on June 15 announced that effective immediately, certain young people who were brought to the United States as young children, do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria, will be considered for relief from removal from the country or from entering into removal proceedings.

Napolitano said the deferred action program will offer the young immigrants two-year work permits and not deport them as a temporary measure until the country’s immigration policies could be changed with the adoption of the DREAM Act.

The IPC, established in 2003, is the policy arm of the American Immigration Council. The IPC says its mission is to shape a rational conversation on immigration and immigrant integration.

Nevada Homeland Security Commission Adopts Drastically Reduced Funding Plan For 2012

By Sean Whaley | 1:11 pm April 26th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s Homeland Security Commission today adopted a drastically reduced plan to continue the fight against potential terrorist attacks, leaving six ongoing programs without funding because of declining federal support.

Led by Commission Chairman and Gov. Brian Sandoval, the panel of law enforcement and other emergency services providers unanimously adopted a plan that will see $4.3 million in total federal funding this year, a 60 percent reduction in funding from 2011 when Nevada received $10.8 million.

The commission approved funding for 10 projects and programs, including its three threat analysis, or “fusion” centers, but another 11 received no funding at all. Six of the 11 were to sustain existing programs, from the Washoe County Silver Shield program to the Carson City Regional Citizen Corps. Silver Shield programs are those designed to protect critical infrastructure, from water systems to government operations.

Hoover Dam, part of Nevada's critical infrastructure.

The projects receiving funding were the result of a collaborative effort by the statewide commission.

The federal funding comes via two programs: the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) and the State Homeland Security Program (SHSP) through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Federal support for both programs was reduced significantly this year. The UASI funding totaled $2.66 million, down from $5.7 million last year, and the SHSP funding totaled $1.65 million, down from $5.14 million in 2011.

Even so, Rick Martin, program manager for the state Division of Emergency Management, said the funding priorities developed by commission members and support staff and funded today will keep Nevada safe.

“That’s certainly what we’re concerned with as well, and that was part of the commission’s priorities this year, is to ensure that we virtually get the biggest bang for the buck and that we are safe and that we are sustaining the programs and projects that are most important to this process,” he said.

Martin said efforts will continue to find other sources of money for the projects that received no funding.

“We’re going to work diligently to find additional funding, not only in the homeland security grant program but the other preparedness grant programs as well,” he said. “So we’re going to work really hard to make sure that some of these programs don’t go away.”

The reduction in federal funding for homeland security has been a source of concern for Sandoval and the commission as a whole.

At the March commission meeting, Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie said federal officials need to reassess the “threat matrix” used to allocate funding to states and cities for homeland security efforts, particularly given the reduced level of funding being made available. Gillespie said the formula gives a higher priority for funding to cities like Detroit without taking into consideration how cities like Las Vegas and Seattle have changed since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

At today’s meeting the commission also agreed to seek federal approval to use about $569,000 in “de-obligated” homeland security funding allocated to Nevada in prior years to support some of the 11 programs and projects that received no money.

Even those programs that were funded saw much less money than requested.

The fusion centers, created to coordinate tips and information from around the state to evaluate the potential for terrorism, were funded well below the amounts requested. The northern Nevada center received $283,240 after initially requesting $482,772. The southern Nevada center received just over $1 million after requesting $1.46 million.

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Audio clips:

Rick Martin, program manager for the state Division of Emergency Management, says the safety of Nevadans and visitors was a top priority in the funding decisions:

042612Martin1 :18 to this process.”

Martin says efforts will be made to find funding for the other programs and projects:

042612Martin2 :17 don’t go away.”

Sandoval Displaying ‘Hands-On’ Approach As Governor In First Eight Months On The Job

By Sean Whaley | 2:20 pm September 16th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Brian Sandoval has made it clear in his first eight months on the job that he is going to be a “hands on” chief executive, as evidenced by decisions he has made to be personally involved on issues ranging from economic development to homeland security.

From personally making telephone calls to lure businesses to the state to deciding to serve as chairman of the Homeland Security Commission, Sandoval is not a governor who is stepping back to rely on staff or his cabinet to run the state.

“These are the times we’re in,” he said in an interview earlier this week. “And I am absolutely committed to spending all the time it takes to serve the people of the state of Nevada. And as I said it is a time to be engaged, to be working side-by-side with local governments and local elected officials.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

Many previous governors have opted to have their representatives serve on various panels, but Sandoval has gone the other way, choosing as well to serve as chairman of the newly constituted Board of Economic Development which will work to bring businesses and jobs to Nevada.

Sandoval said job creation and economic development was a campaign issue and a focus of his State of the State address and so serving as chairman of the new economic development board makes sense.

The governor is required to serve on the state Board of Transportation, but at its last meeting, Sandoval voted with other members to greatly expand oversight by the panel of the agency, moving to monthly meetings instead of quarterly and opting for much greater review of its activities.

Sandoval is busy in the public realm as well, for example attending multiple events on the 10th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks. He has also made it a point to attend Nevada National Guard deployments and the return of the troops from overseas at every opportunity.

Sandoval said his approach to the governorship is the same he has used in his many other positions, from his two terms in the Assembly in the 1990s, to his time as Nevada Attorney General, chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission and as a U.S. District judge in Reno.

Retired state archivist and Carson City resident Guy Rocha said he has not been following Sandoval’s every move as governor, but noted that his style may be hearkening back to the late Gov. Mike O’Callaghan, another chief executive who was intimately involved in the day-to-day running of state government.

The governors in-between, from Bob List to Jim Gibbons, exhibited varying levels of involvement, he said.

“I haven’t been tracking Brian; I’ve heard a few things, that on the Board of Examiners he’s asking good questions – involved, that type of thing” Rocha said. “So if that’s the direction he’s going, then the template for that is Mike O’Callaghan, arguably.”

Sandoval said there are specific reasons for the actions he has taken to be involved in various areas of state government.

The decision by the Transportation Board is in no way a suggestion of a lack of confidence in the agency staff, but a realization the department authorizes millions of dollars in contracts and that more oversight was appropriate, he said.

“The board agreed with me that if we’re going to be a part of the management of that department then certainly we should have a say and the opportunity to review the contracts that are being entered into on behalf of the state,” Sandoval said.

Sandoval said he has always had an interest in homeland security issues dating back to his time as attorney general, and that the opportunity to interact with the sheriffs of Washoe and Clark counties, as well as other emergency response officials, makes his participation on the commission worthwhile.

“I thought it was incumbent on me as the governor to personally serve as the chairman so that again I have a first-hand knowledge of what is happening with regard to our homeland security efforts in the state of Nevada,” he said.

Bob Fisher, president and CEO of the Nevada Broadcasters Association and a member of the commission, in August praised Sandoval’s decision to serve on the panel, calling it “the best thing to happen to homeland security in the state of Nevada.”

Not everyone agrees.

Former Nevada Department of Public Safety Director Jerry Hafen under Gov. Jim Gibbons, who served on the commission, in a Sept. 9 interview on the Face to Face television program, said Sandoval took bad advice by serving as chairman.

“I think it was a mistake,” he said. “As the director of public safety I was a member of that commission. The current director of public safety doesn’t sit on the commission, the governor does. That’s bizarre.”

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Audio clips:

Gov. Brian Sandoval says it is a time to be engaged on critical issues facing the state:

091611Sandoval1 :15 local government officials.”

Sandoval says the Transportation Board agreed it needed more review over the agency:

091611Sandoval2 :11 of the state.”

Sandoval says it is important for him to serve as chairman of the Homeland Security Commission:

091611Sandoval3 :12 state of Nevada.”

Former state archivist Guy Rocha says the late Gov. Mike O’Callahgan was one of the most hands on governors in modern Nevada history:

091611Rocha1 :19 modern Nevada history.”

Rocha says O’Callaghan is the template for a hand’s on governor:

091611Rocha2 :22 Mike O’Callaghan, arguably.”

 

 

Nevada Groups Criticize U.S. Immigration Agency On ‘Secure Communities’ Decision

By Sean Whaley | 4:40 pm August 11th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A Nevada activist group is criticizing a decision by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to terminate all of its agreements with states regarding the operation of its “Secure Communities” program.

The information sharing program identifies criminal aliens for prosecution and deportation.

The Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN) “joins the chorus of condemnations” to the decision of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to unilaterally annul ICE’s agreements with states, including Nevada, the group said in a statement issued Wednesday.

Photo Courtesy of ICE

ICE Director John Morton on Friday terminated all of the agreements with the states to “clarify that a memorandum of agreement between ICE and a state is not required to operate Secure Communities for any jurisdiction.”

“Once a state or local law enforcement agency voluntarily submits fingerprint data to the federal government, no agreement with the state is legally necessary for one part of the federal government to share it with another part,” a statement from the agency said.

ICE said the program is mandatory, not voluntary.

In the letter to governors, Morton said the decision will have no effect on the operation of the program in the states where it is being operated.

John Morton, director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Secure Communities is operating in 14 of Nevada’s 17 counties. The first to join was Washoe County in July 2010. White Pine, Eureka and Esmeralda counties are not yet participating. According to the agency, 785 convicted criminal aliens have been apprehended in Nevada since the program began, with 341 being removed from the U.S.

Chris Perry, director of the Nevada Department of Public Safety, said through a spokeswoman that the letter has been received but the agency is still evaluating what it means to the state’s Secure Communities program.

Mario DelaRosa, immigrant rights organizer with PLAN, said in the statement: “Once again DHS is trying to rule by mandate. This is not Libya, where security agencies make up the rules as they go along. Local law enforcement agencies bear the costs of the program, including the erosion of trust between local police and immigrant communities that occurs whenever police engage in federal immigration enforcement.”

In a telephone interview, he said: “This is a response to numerous state leaders, governors, who have openly expressed serious doubts about this program.”

DelaRosa said about 55 percent of those people deported from Washoe County, and 73 percent from Clark County, committed either no crime or a minor crime. Families are being separated, he said.

“That is causing a crisis in the immigrant community,” DelaRosa said.

Mario DelaRosa, immigrant rights organizer with PLAN

The ACLU of Nevada is also critical of the move.

Rebecca Gasca, legislative and policy director for the organization, said the decision is a complete about face.

“What the Obama administration should have done is halt the program,” she said. “It’s a complete surprise and an unfortunate one.”

The Secure Communities program is fraught with civil rights problems, including allegations of racial profiling and fears in the immigrant community of reporting crimes, Gasca said. There is also a lack of training and standards, she said.

Several states, most recently Massachusetts in June, have made efforts to reject the program because of the problems, she said.

“The lack of the (memorandum of understanding) makes it even worse because there is no accountability between the local jurisdictions and DHS,” Gasca said.

The statement from ICE said: “Secure Communities promotes the agency’s top enforcement priority of finding and removing those who are unlawfully present or otherwise removable and have criminal convictions by relying on an already-existing federal information-sharing program, consisting of the sharing of biometric data between two federal law enforcement agencies – DHS and the FBI.

“ICE continues to work with its law enforcement partners across the country to responsibly and effectively implement this federal information sharing capability and plans to reach complete nationwide activation by 2013,” the statement concluded.

ICE is using the Secure Communities capability in 1,508 jurisdictions in 43 states and one U.S. territory as of Aug. 2.

Audio clips:

Mario DelaRosa, immigrant rights organizer with PLAN, says the decision by ICE is in response to concerns about the program being raised by state leaders and governors from around the country:

081111DelaRosa :12 about this program.”

Rebecca Gasca of the ACLU of Nevada says the Obama Administration should have halted the program because of the many problems:

081111Gasca1 :17 associated with it.”

Gasca says the lack of the agreement makes it even worse:

081111Gasca2 :07 jurisdictions and DHS.”

Gasca says there is also a lack of training and standards with the program:

081111Gasca3 :09 on the program.”

 

Gov. Gibbons Announces Retirement Of State Public Safety Chief

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 1:14 pm December 6th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Gov. Jim Gibbons today announced the retirement of Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Jerry Hafen. Hafen is a life-long resident of Clark County and was appointed to the top job at the agency in early 2008.

He will step down Dec. 31.

“Jerry Hafen has proven to be a respected leader in law enforcement in Nevada and I am proud of his accomplishments as DPS Director,” Gibbons said. “Jerry has proven time and again that the safety of the citizens of Nevada is his top priority.

“Under Director Hafen’s watch, the department has made numerous progressive moves to modernize their mission and engage other law enforcement agencies and citizens, all making Nevada a safer and better place to live,” he said.

The department is comprised of several divisions, including the Nevada Highway Patrol, Investigation Division, Division of Parole and Probation, DPS Training Division, Capital Police, Division of Emergency Management/Homeland Security, State Fire Marshal’s Office, Office of Criminal Justice Assistance and the Office of Traffic Safety.

“I am proud to have served for Gov. Gibbons and the people of Nevada,” Hafen said. “I am equally proud of all the sacrifices made by the hardworking men and women of the Department of Public Safety to serve the citizens of Nevada.

“I am also grateful for the relationships I have developed with sheriffs and chiefs throughout the state, as well as the heads of federal law enforcement agencies. It is truly a team effort to serve and protect the people of Nevada,” he said.

Under Hafen’s tenure, the department started a K-9 Unit using donated funds and money seized from major drug traffickers. The K-9 Unit and other programs implemented by Hafen are largely responsible for the disruption of drug trafficking operations, numerous drugs arrests, as well as the seizure of millions of dollars in illegal drugs and cash throughout the state.

Hafen also oversaw the creation of an anti-terrorism Fusion Center in Carson City, integration of Homeland Security into the Nevada Division of Emergency Management, training improvements and use of new grant funding to better train and equip staff in all DPS Divisions, introducing a massive new records management system, and standardization of DPS policies to make DPS staff more efficient and accountable.

Hafen began his diverse law enforcement career as a patrol officer in 1975 and has served as an investigator for the state Taxicab Authority, a state gaming enforcement agent and a senior investigator for the Department of Motor Vehicles and Public Safety Bureau of Enforcement.

In 1995, Hafen moved to the Department of Public Safety’s Investigation Division as a criminal investigator. During Hafen’s tenure with the department, he has worked on investigations of criminal related activity pertaining to homicide, auto theft, narcotics enforcement, theft and fraud, sexual assault, organized crime, political corruption and internal affairs. In 2003, rising to the rank of DPS deputy chief, Hafen supervised and administered operations for the Division’s statewide Narcotics and Major Crimes Units.

Jerry Hafen

Nevada Homeland Security Commission Concerned About Cyberterrorism Threat

By Sean Whaley | 11:52 am August 5th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Members of the Nevada Homeland Security Commission expressed concern today that the state does not appear to have a coordinated effort or designated person to deal with the ever-growing threat of cybercrime.

“I’m amazed we already don’t have a handle on this” said commission vice-chairman and former Clark County sheriff Jerry Keller, “I’m absolutely amazed that nine years after 9-11, that we sit in the state of Nevada in a commission that has no authority to effect action except direct grant funds, and we can’t say who’s it; who is the person in Nevada for cybercrimes . . .”

Keller said the state either needs to designate someone who can coordinate efforts to combat cybercrime, or the commission needs to form a cybercrime subcommittee of its own so Nevada can better prepare for and prevent such attacks.

The commission decided to form a subcommittee of its own to bring the panel up-to-speed on cybercrime prevention efforts under way in the state.

The discussion came during a report on the activities of the commission’s Critical Infrastructure Committee by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Assistant Sheriff Mike McClary, who recommended the creation of a separate cybercrime committee because of the complexity of the issue.

The information is critical for the commission to decide which grant proposals should be awarded the limited funds available to the state, said Chairman Dale Carrison.

Cybercrime, or more specifically cyberterrorism, is the convergence of terrorism and cyberspace, according to testimony provided to Congress in 2000 by a Georgetown University professor.

“It is generally understood to mean unlawful attacks and threats of attack against computers, networks, and the information stored therein when done to intimidate or coerce a government or its people in furtherance of political or social objectives,” said Professor Dorothy Denning.

In remarks earlier this year, FBI Director Robert Mueller said the agency believes, “the cyberterrorism threat is real, and it is rapidly expanding.”

“To date, terrorists have not used the Internet to launch a full-scale cyber attack. But they have executed numerous denial-of-service attacks,” he said. “And they have defaced numerous websites, including Congress’ website following President Obama’s State of the Union speech.”

The 14-member Homeland Security Commission meets quarterly. Keller, who is retired as vice president of security for Wynn Resorts, has been critical in past meetings of the state’s efforts in preparing for an act of terrorism, including failures to improve communications between different first-responders who would react to an incident.

“But we’re absolutely sitting still in the water in this state with making progress on several of these homeland security issues,” Keller said. “And it is very frustrating that we don’t have a person responsible for this; that this hasn’t already been done.

“All we can do is listen, and wait three months and listen again, and wait three more months and listen again, and hope that this gels into a solid product and it just doesn’t,” he said.

Carrison joined in Keller’s concerns, saying different groups are working separately on the issue, but that Homeland Security does not know what all the efforts entail or if they are coordinated.

The commission would like to know, “where we were, where we are and where we are going,” Carrison said.

“Because there is no coordinated effort in this state that I can see that has identified that,” he said.

Glade Myler, a senior deputy attorney general, said there is a cybercrime advisory council within the attorney general’s office that could make a report to the commission. He also noted that Gov. Jim Gibbons in June created the Nevada Crime Commission, which has cybercrime as one of its issues.

Kevin Favreau, FBI special agent in charge of the Las Vegas division, who serves as a non-voting member of the Homeland Security Commission, said cybercrime attacks on critical infrastructure are a focus of the agency’s InfraGard program. It is active both in Las Vegas and separately in northern Nevada and works closely with the private sector, he said.

“I would certainly pledge the FBI’s support to a second subcommittee looking at this issue,” he said.

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Audio clips:

Former Clark County Sheriff Jerry Keller on lack of cybercrime coordination:

080410Keller1 :19 Nevada for cybercrimes.”

Keller on need to make progress on homeland security issues:

080410Keller2 :19 already been done.”

Homeland Security Commission Chairman Dale Carrison on lack of coordination on cybercrime coordination:

080410Carrison1 :19 what they’re doing.”

Homeland Security Commissioners, Sheriffs Frustrated With Lack of Progress

By Sean Whaley | 1:41 pm April 7th, 2010

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.”

Commissioners Criticize State Homeland Security Reorganization

By Sean Whaley | 12:57 pm November 4th, 2009

CARSON CITY – Members of the Nevada Commission on Homeland Security today criticized the decision by Gov. Jim Gibbons to merge the homeland security program with the Department of Public Safety, saying the critical mission of the program has been diminished with the move.

The commission was also informed that Rick Eaton, director of Homeland Security, has resigned effective the end of the month. Jerry Hafen, director of the Department of Public Safety, said Eaton submitted his resignation to the governor explaining he wanted to spend more time with his family.

But it was the move of the Office of Homeland Security from under Gibbons to Public Safety that provoked the most comment from the commission.

Commission Vice Chairman Jerry Keller, a former Clark County Sheriff, said the Office of Homeland Security now has no direct link to Gibbons, a communication avenue critical to the mission of the program. Keller acknowledged that Gibbons does not have the authority without legislative approval to create a position of director of homeland security.

“But I’m telling you right now in my opinion, having been involved in homeland security since the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I am disappointed in this move of the state,” Keller said. “They have never taken this to heart.

“We go along at a snail’s pace with every issue on homeland security,” he said. “I am disappointed in this decision. I think it is an absolute mistake. It is a sad day for the homeland security side of the state of Nevada and the citizens it serves.”

Keller’s concerns about moving the program were echoed by Doug Gillespie, the current Clark County sheriff, and others on the panel.

Commission Chairman Dale Carrison acknowledged Keller’s concerns, but said he will support Gibbons’ decision.

“It’s time for all the people in the boat to be rowing in the same direction,” he said.

Carrison said the decision to move homeland security has uncovered issues with the program that could cost the state money in future grant awards.

He said there are “significant chances that we will lose a large amount of money because of what has happened in some of the programs, or better yet what has not happened in some of the programs, that has come to light during this transition period and time.”

The commission will be advised of these concerns in future meetings, Carrison said.

An effort is under way to get the programs back on track, he said. Once this task is accomplished, the commission can go forward with the issues raised by Keller and others, he said.

Keller said that if there was a failure to perform by a member of the program, shifting it from one area of state government to another won’t solve the problem.

Hafen said a review of the programs operated by the Office of Homeland Security is under way to ensure funds are being spent appropriately and within the timelines required by the federal government. Hafen said he does not believe the issues being uncovered in the review and mentioned by Carrison as concerns are, “insurmountable.”

Gibbons in October announced he was moving the program from his office to the Department of Public Safety, following the lead of two dozen other states. The reason for the move is to improve efficiency and response, Gibbons said in making the announcement. Within Public Safety, the program is being overseen by the Division of Emergency Management and its chief, Frank Siracusa. Siracusa reports to Hafen.

Hafen said the move is the best decision for homeland security in the short term until issues raised by Keller and others can be addressed by the Legislature.

“I understand the frustration of everybody, I’ve been as frustrated as anybody else about the performance of that office,” Hafen said. “Not just under Rick Eaton’s leadership. The Office of Homeland Security never really had a place in the state structure because it was never legislatively created.”

Gibbons spokesman Dan Burns said there are plans for a workshop to discuss the future of the Office of Homeland Security and the concerns expressed by Keller and others.

Keller praised the work of Siracusa, but said he is overloaded with his current duties.

Keller said he has been asking for a director of homeland security for almost eight years following the 2001 terrorist attacks, but it has not happened.

“There are some significant deficiencies in the overall state plan,” he said. “We don’t have anybody in charge in the state of Nevada in homeland security.”

Keller said both Clark and Washoe counties have created such a position and the state is better off because of this local government commitment to homeland security.

“This commission specifically has no authority to take action,” he said. “We advise.”