Homeland Security Commission gets fusion center update | NevadaAppeal.com

Homeland Security Commission gets fusion center update

Nevada’s Homeland Security Commission decided Wednesday that lawmakers and other state officials should get the same briefing about the Southern Nevada fusion center the commission received.

“It’s very sad and concerning to me the legislative body had so limited information,” said Dale Carrison, commission chairman.

The issue was raised during the legislative session after Gov. Jim Gibbons asked for a half-million dollars a year to create a supervising fusion center in Carson City. That drew questions from Clark County law enforcement officials who said it would be redundant and could actually impede the flow of information during a terrorist threat or other emergency.

“I don’t think anybody had a common idea in Carson City what a fusion center is,” said commission member Robert Hadfield.

That confusion apparently extended to the governor’s office as well. Commission members said Gibbons’ primary concern was whether he would have access to the information he needs in case of emergency or threat.

Las Vegas Metro Police Department Lt. Tom Monahan told the commission that is actually the purpose of the centers in Reno and Las Vegas – to gather, analyze and disseminate information about terror-related and other emergency situations.

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He was backed by former Clark County Sheriff Jerry Keller, who sits on the commission.

“This is open to public knowledge,” Keller said.

Because of the apparent dispute over the need for a Carson City center, lawmakers put the money for the project in an Interim Finance Committee account, directing the governor’s office and law enforcement to work it out.

Monahan said part of the problem stems from the federal decision to change the name a little more than a year ago from counter-terrorism center to fusion center. He said another misconception is that the two centers being built in Nevada are separate and not interconnected. He said the northern center in Reno and the southern center in Las Vegas will have strong ties to share and spread any intelligence they collect and mechanisms to provide state officials – including the governor – with all the data they need to make decisions.

“The fusion center program, that refers to the entire state,” said Monahan, who directs the effort in Southern Nevada.

He said the fundamental reason for the project is information gathering and sharing to prevent terrorist acts, not respond to them after the fact.

That information, Monahan said, will come from a variety of sources ranging from hotline calls, crime data, hazardous materials movement data and emergency medical service reports as well as reports from private sector security – which he said includes more than 6,700 security personnel in the Las Vegas valley alone.

The function of the centers, Monahan said, is to get that data to those who need it in a form they can understand and use to make decisions. He emphasized the centers are not classified, that their purpose is to get the intelligence information out to government, private industry and the public.

Law enforcement officials are to meet with the governor this week to discuss the issues.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.

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