Titus Presses DHS to Improve the Decision Making Process for Counterterrorism Funding

Jul 31, 2013
Press Release

July 31, 2013

Washington, D.C. - Congresswoman Dina Titus of Nevada’s First District sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano today encouraging the Secretary to brief her successor on the serious concerns raised by Titus regarding the decision making process  for the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) grant program. Grants made under the program are distributed to a limited number of cities for counterterrorism activities and are based in part on the State and MSA Risk Formula, which is used to gauge a given city’s relative risk for a terrorist attack.

Earlier this year, Titus wrote two letters urging the Secretary to replace the flawed methodology and base counterterrorism funding decisions on forward looking, risk-based metrics that reflect the true purpose of the funding – mitigating the risk of future attacks. In May of this year, Las Vegas area’s Relative Risk Profile ranking was adjusted from 30 to 33, a modification that led to DHS's announcement in May that Las Vegas would not receive UASI funds for FY2013.

“Adequate funding for counterterrorism activities is essential to Las Vegas’ ability to protect the residents of our great city and to ensure the safety and security of the nearly 40 million visitors who come to Las Vegas every year,” Titus said. “I will continue to press the Department of Homeland Security, regardless of who is the Secretary, to improve the methodology used to award UASI grants so as to better reflect the unique nature of Las Vegas.”

The full text of Congresswoman Titus’s letter can be read here:

July 31, 2013

Dear Secretary Napolitano,

As you near the end of your term as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, I want to thank you for working to increase the security of the United States and our allies around the world. Your tireless efforts have made our country safer and I wish you the best as the new President of the California University System.

As you transition out of office, I hope that you will pass along to your successor my concerns about the current funding system for the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI). Grants made under the program are distributed based in part on the State and MSA Risk Formula, which is used to gauge a given city’s relative risk for a terrorist attack. I believe this formula needs significant improvement.

I am proud to represent Las Vegas, including the Las Vegas Strip, McCarran International Airport, University of Nevada – Las Vegas, The College of Southern Nevada, and Downtown Las Vegas. As I have highlighted in earlier letters, the Las Vegas area has the potential for high consequence events as we welcome 40 million visitors each year who stay in our 62,000 hotel rooms. Our area takes great pride in ensuring the safety of our guests. As a former member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, I understand both the threats facing the security of the United States and the challenges faced by cities like Las Vegas concerning emergency preparedness and response.

I continue to believe that the UASI funding should be used to fund activities through a risk based, forward looking metric. As you continue to refine the formulas for this program, I reiterate my request that you improve the methodology to better reflect the nature of Las Vegas and other cities with a significant number of visitors.

As we have previously discussed, I have concerns regarding the methodology for the risk formula and I would encourage you to share my previous communications with your eventual successor. I would like to highlight a few that I believe are in the most need of improvement.  The current risk formula does not reflect the military installations that rely on Las Vegas for services and housing for members of the Armed Services. These installations include Nellis Air Force Base and Creech Air Force Base. Any sort of emergency in Las Vegas would have a direct impact on the Air Force, both in the Western United States and in theater, as Nellis and Creech play significant roles in overseas operations. I am also concerned that the risk formulas do not account for future influxes of visitors. A truly forward looking, risk based formula would include ways to gauge future needs.

Funding for these programs should not be contingent on artificial caps regarding the number of cities that can participate or on previous participation in the program. Valuable taxpayer resources should be spent in the most efficient and effective way possible.

I look forward to continuing to work with the Department on this critical issue. If I can be of any assistance to connect your staff with emergency management officials in Las Vegas, please call on me any time.


Dina Titus
Member of Congress