Titus: DHS Should be Making Counterterrorism Funding Decisions to Mitigate Future Risks

May 9, 2013
Press Release

May 9, 2013

Washington, D.C. - Today Congresswoman Dina Titus of Nevada’s First District sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano encouraging the DHS to improve the methodology used to create the 2013 Relative Risk Profile for the Las Vegas Urban Area (LVUA) so that it is more reliant on forward looking, risk based metrics. This is the second letter sent by Titus to Secretary Napolitano regarding LVUA’s overall risk ranking adjustment from 30 to 33, a modification that could lead to a reduction in funding for counterterrorism funding.

“Sufficient funding for counterterrorism activities is critical to Las Vegas’ ability to protect the residents of our great city and to ensure the safety and security of tourists who come to visit Las Vegas from around the globe,” Congresswoman Titus said. “With tens of thousands of tourists and business travelers visiting Las Vegas every day, the Department of Homeland Security should be making counterterrorism funding decisions that will effectively mitigate future risks rather than using backward looking metrics.”
 
The full text of Congresswoman Titus’s May 9, 2013 letter can be read here: 
 
The Honorable Janet Napolitano
Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20528
 
Dear Secretary Napolitano,
 
As a former member of the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security and the current Representative of the Las Vegas Valley including the Strip, McCarran International Airport, and Downtown Las Vegas, I write with strong concerns regarding the methodology used to create a draft of the 2013 Relative Risk Profile for the Las Vegas Urban Area (LVUA). I hope to work with you to correct the methodology to better reflect the unique nature of Las Vegas. As I wrote in an earlier letter, I am very concerned that changes to Las Vegas’s Relative Risk Profile could result in a reduction of counterterrorism funding.
 
I believe that counterterrorism funding decisions should be made using forward looking, risk based metrics. It is my understanding that one component of the Risk Profile is the individual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA). I believe that this aspect of the Risk Profile is backward looking and should be replaced to reflect the true purpose of counterterrorism funding – mitigating the risk of future attacks. 
 
In Las Vegas, we are able to accurately predict increases and decreases of visitors using a number of metrics including convention bookings and expected flight schedules. As our nation continues to move away from the economic recession, we are able to project with great confidence that Las Vegas will see considerable increases in visitors, conventions, and special events in the coming years. For example, we expect that 40.1 million travelers will visit Las Vegas, representing an increase of 400,000 people over last year.  An increased number of visitors to Las Vegas also represents and in increase in opportunities for potential terrorists. As we saw in the tragic attacks in Boston just a few weeks ago, terrorists continue to target high profile and high traffic areas. On any given day, tens of thousands of tourists walk along the 4.2 mile Las Vegas Strip, home to 62,000 hotel rooms and 15 of the world's 25 largest hotels.  
 
As part of the 2013 Relative Risk Profile draft for the LVUA MSA, it was noted that the overall vulnerability score increased, moving Las Vegas up on the index from 39 to 38. The overall consequence rank remained the same as in FY 2012, but the overall risk ranking fell due to increased risk in other MSAs. While I respect the fact that other MSAs may have had an increase in aspects of their risk profile, I am concerned that despite the fact that our vulnerability score increased, and that the consequence rank remained constant, our MSA could stand to lose significant funding for counterterrorism activities. In addition to any human loss, a terrorist event would be devastating not just for the regional economy but for national businesses that support Las Vegas tourism. 
 
Accordingly, I respectfully request that DHS take immediate actions to ensure Las Vegas does not see any decrease in counterterrorism funding. In fact, with the number of visitors, conventions and other special events scheduled to increase significantly, I will continue to argue that Las Vegas should actually see an increase in funding for counterterrorism activities. 
 
I look forward to continuing to work with you on this important issue.
 
Sincerely,
 
 
Dina Titus
Member of Congress 
 

The full text of Congresswoman Titus’s April 19, 2013 letter can be read here: 
 
The Honorable Janet Napolitano
Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20528
 
Dear Secretary Napolitano:
As a former member of the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, and the current Representative of the Las Vegas Valley including the Strip, McCarran International Airport, University of Nevada – Las Vegas, The College of Southern Nevada, and Downtown Las Vegas, I write regarding a draft of the 2013 Relative Risk Profile for the Las Vegas Urban Area (LVUA).   
 
I request additional information as to why the LVUA Relative Risk Profile ranking was adjusted from 30 to 33. With the LVUA receiving funding at a level of 24 out of 31 last year, I am concerned that the LVUA will drop out of the top 25 for funding purposes. I urge you to take into serious consideration the justification provided by the LVUA in response to the draft Relative Risk Profile.  
 
The Las Vegas Urban Area has the potential for high consequence events of significant public health, public safety and socioeconomic impact.   Hundreds of thousands of people gather in large venues in Southern Nevada every day.  Fifteen of the world’s 25 largest hotels by room count are on the Las Vegas Strip, with a total of over 62,000 rooms. In 2012 some 37.5 million visitors came to Las Vegas and over 21,000 conventions are held annually. The LVUA is also located close to important federal assets, including Nellis Air Force Base and Creech Air Force Base, as well as the National Nuclear Security Site and Hoover Dam.  
 
I am proud to represent Las Vegas, one of the premier vacation and business destinations in the world. Ensuring that my constituents and the millions of visitors we welcome each year stay safe is a top priority. Without UASI funding to sustain or enhance regional or nationally deployable capabilities, FEMA Region IX and the LVUA will be at a significant disadvantage in preparedness, response, and recovery capabilities.  I look forward to working with you to ensure these critical counterterrorism funds are provided in a risk based manner. 
 
Sincerely,
 
Dina Titus
Member of Congress