Titus Asks Homeland Security Nominee to Increase Grant Funding for Las Vegas

Oct 31, 2017
Press Release

October 31, 2017

Washington, D.C. – Today Rep. Dina Titus of Nevada’s First Congressional District released the following letter she sent to the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Nominee, Kirstjen Nielsen, urging her to bolster and improve the Urban Area Security Initiative grant program if she receives Senate approval to run DHS. Nielsen’s nomination was referred to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on October 16.

UASI grants are a source of funding for the Metropolitan Police Fusion Center, which played a crucial role as a coordination hub for law enforcement in response to the 1 October tragedy in Las Vegas. During her time in office, Rep. Titus has requested DHS change its funding formula for the program to help ensure that Las Vegas receives a larger sum that better reflects its unique needs as a tourist destination.

Below is a copy of the letter:

 

October 30, 2017

Kirstjen Nielsen
Nominee for Secretary—Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20528

Dear Ms. Nielsen,

Congratulations on your recent nomination as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. As you continue preparations for the confirmation process, I urge you to consider how you can bolster and improve the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) grant program in your new role. 

I am proud to represent the First District of Nevada which includes the Las Vegas Strip, McCarran International Airport, University of Nevada—Las Vegas, College of Southern Nevada, and Downtown Las Vegas. The UASI grant program, designed to help metropolitan areas prevent, mitigate, respond to, and recover from acts of terrorism, has been vital to helping our local law enforcement protect Las Vegas tourists and residents.

In the last two years, DHS awarded Las Vegas $3 million in UASI grants. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Fusion Center, a recipient of funding from the UASI program, played a crucial role as a coordination center for law enforcement and public safety agencies during the horrific 1 October tragedy in Las Vegas. This awful event emphasized the distinct risks Las Vegas faces as a center of tourism and the need for special consideration of places like Southern Nevada in calculating and distributing UASI funds.

I have spoken with previous DHS secretaries over the past few years to outline my concerns about the structure of the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) risk validation process. Southern Nevada welcomes nearly a million tourists from across the United States and abroad in any given week, many of whom are unfamiliar with local emergency procedures; yet our community must care for and protect them in the event of an emergency. The current MSA process does not properly reflect the additional resources necessary to meet this unique demand. It also shortchanges Las Vegas by counting the entirety of the Las Vegas Strip as one asset when in fact it comprises three major convention centers and dozens of hotels and resorts, including some of the largest in the world.

Furthermore, the current risk formula fails to reflect the impact that a terrorist attack would have on Nellis Air Force Base and Creech Air Force Base whose servicemembers rely on Las Vegas for housing and other services. Both of these bases are critical to our ongoing efforts against ISIS and other terrorist groups.

As you know, the program is designed to help local communities prepare for emergencies and respond when they unfortunately occur. The current process fails to incorporate an evaluation of how MSA’s have spent their previously awarded funds. I respectfully suggest updating the formula to reflect effective usage, so the larger MSA’s do not always necessarily receive the majority of the total funding.

Additionally, I ask you to reconsider the Administration’s budget request reducing funding for UASI by $150 million and requiring states and local governments to provide a 25 percent match for UASI grants. While the President claims making the safety of American citizens is a priority of the Administration, this would decrease the number of communities that could be served by the program and increase the burden on local law enforcement without making us any safer.

Should you be confirmed, I look forward to welcoming you to Las Vegas. Such a visit will allow you to experience firsthand the unique preparedness challenges of our region and see how UASI grants help strengthen our response and prevention efforts in times of emergency.

Sincerely,

Dina Titus
Member of Congress