Mass shoot­ing in­creases calls for more coun­tert­er­ror­ism fund­ing.

Cham­ber says city risk un­der­eval­u­ated by feds

Las Vegas Review-Journal (Sunday) - - FRONT PAGE - By Ni­cole Raz • Re­view-Jour­nal White House Cor­re­spon­dent De­bra J. Saun­ders con­trib­uted to this re­port. Con­tact Ni­cole Raz at nraz@re­viewjour­nal. com or 702-380-4512. Fol­low @ Jour­nal­istNikki on Twit­ter.

JUST last week, Mike Bolognini, vice pres­i­dent and mar­ket leader for Cox Las Ve­gas, was in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., speak­ing with mem­bers of Congress about the need for ad­di­tional coun­tert­er­ror­ism fund­ing.

“There we were in Wash­ing­ton, press­ing not only our con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion but also the other con­gress­men and sen­a­tors that we met with about fund­ing and the fact there is a ma­jor prob­lem,” Bolognini said.

The De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity has un­der­val­ued Las Ve­gas’ rel­a­tive risk of ter­ror­ism, he said, which de­presses the level of Ur­ban Area Se­cu­rity Ini­tia­tive fund­ing Las Ve­gas re­ceives for ter­ror­ism pre­pared­ness and re­sponse over­all.

Bolognini was one about 100 other busi­ness and gov­ern­ment lead­ers rep­re­sent­ing the Las Ve­gas Metro Cham­ber on its an­nual lob­by­ing trip. Bolognini ar­rived Sun­day evening, right be­fore McCar­ran In­ter­na­tional Air­port shut down in re­sponse to the mass shoot­ing at Man­dalay Bay.

‘Su­per im­por­tant’

Ne­vada’s ini­tia­tive fund­ing has de­clined from $10.5 mil­lion in fis­cal 2004 to $2.8 mil­lion in fis­cal 2017.

Chuck Call­away, a lob­by­ist for the Metropoli­tan Po­lice De­part­ment, said the de­part­ment has felt that de­crease.

Ur­ban Area Se­cu­rity Ini­tia­tive fund­ing is “su­per im­por­tant,” he said, and has helped the de­part­ment fund the South­ern Ne­vada Counter-ter­ror­ism Cen­ter, which he said pos­si­bly pre­vented an act of vi­o­lence, pos­si­bly a school shoot­ing, “a cou­ple of years ago.”

He couldn’t say how more or less ini­tia­tive fund­ing would have af­fected the pre­pared­ness or re­sponse to Sun­day’s mass shoot­ing. But Call­away did say that while the re­sponse to the shoot­ing was “re­mark­able,” “more fund­ing helps with ev­ery­thing.”

Be­sides the de­cline in ini­tia­tive fund­ing, Call­away said he is also con­cerned about the way the home­land se­cu­rity de­part­ment eval­u­ates Ne­vada’s crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture. Ne­vada will re­ceive more than $11.1 mil­lion in fis­cal 2017 from three grants: the Ur­ban Area Se­cu­rity Ini­tia­tive, the State Home­land Se­cu­rity Pro­gram and the Emer­gency Man­age­ment Per­for­mance Grant Pro­gram. The Las Ve­gas Metro Cham­ber of Com­merce ad­vo­cated for ad­di­tional Ur­ban Area Se­cu­rity Ini­tia­tive fund­ing in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., dur­ing the week of Sept. 25. Ini­tia­tive fund­ing has de­clined 72.9 per­cent be­tween fis­cal 2004

and fis­cal 2017.

Tourism as crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture

Bolognini said the De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity sees Las Ve­gas as a city of 2.2 mil­lion peo­ple.

“There’s not re­ally a way to cal­cu­late our 42 mil­lion vis­i­tors that come in be­cause they’re not res­i­dents,” he said.

Sen. Cather­ine Cortez Masto, D-Nev, wrote to Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Elaine Duke on Aug. 9 to ex­press con­cern for how the de­part­ment eval­u­ates Las Ve­gas’ rel­a­tive risk of ter­ror at­tacks.

“Las Ve­gas hosts more than 20,000 con­ven­tions, in­clud­ing the Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics Show (CES), which broke an at­ten­dance record with over 180,000 at­ten­dees this past Jan­uary,” she wrote. “In­clud­ing th­ese types of spe­cial events, ac­count­ing for their size, at­ten­dance, and ap­peal would pro­vide a more ac­cu­rate scope of risk.”

Paul Mo­rad­khan, the cham­ber’s vice pres­i­dent of gov­ern­ment af­fairs, said the de­part­ment also wrongly views all prop­er­ties on the Strip as one “clus­ter.”

“Even though we have a few of the world’s largest ho­tels on the (Las Ve­gas) Boule­vard, it’s viewed as one as­set, while we ar­gue it’s mul­ti­ple as­sets on the Strip,” he said.

If the de­part­ment were to account for ad­di­tional as­sets in Las Ve­gas, he said the state would likely get ad­di­tional fund­ing.

De­part­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity Spokesman David La­pan pro­vided some data to the Las Ve­gas Re­view-Jour­nal but was un­able to re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

Lob­by­ing harder

Mo­rad­khan said the cham­ber has ad­vo­cated for in­creased ter­ror­ism pre­pared­ness fund­ing since 2013. That year, Ne­vada re­ceived zero Ur­ban Area Se­cu­rity Ini­tia­tive fund­ing.

Mo­rad­khan and Bolognini are hope­ful that the mass shoot­ing might help ex­ert more pres­sure for the cham­ber’s cause.

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev, said he raised the is­sue with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Wed­nes­day dur­ing his visit to Ne­vada.

“This week’s tragedy in Las Ve­gas un­der­scores the need for Home­land Se­cu­rity to re­con­fig­ure its risk pro­file as­sess­ment formula and di­rect more fed­eral re­sources to the city,” Heller said in a state­ment.

The con­ver­sa­tion about the ini­tia­tive comes after Trump re­leased his pro­posed bud­get in May, which would cut fund­ing for the Ur­ban Area Se­cu­rity Ini­tia­tive by 25 per­cent, to about $431 mil­lion. Up to $587 mil­lion is avail­able for the ini­tia­tive in fis­cal 2017, na­tional grants ser­vices com­pany Grants Of­fice LLC re­ports.

White House press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee San­ders said Fri­day, “At this point, we’re con­tin­u­ing to move for­ward” with the pro­posed bud­get.

“If there is a mo­ment where we feel like the safety and se­cu­rity of Amer­i­can cit­i­zens may be at risk be­cause of cuts, I think we’d have to re­visit it at that time,” she said.

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