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Homeland security commission questions reorganization

Members of the Homeland Security Commission on Wednesday criticized the governor’s decision to move that office under the Department of Public Safety, saying it further diminishes the mission of protecting the state.

Until now, the appointed homeland security administrator has reported directly to the governor.

The commission meeting was teleconferenced between Carson City and Las Vegas.

Commission Vice Chairman Jerry Keller, a former Clark County sheriff, said the move breaks the direct connection to Gov. Jim Gibbons, who the Homeland Security administrator is supposed to advise on security issues. He also criticized how that office has operated since its creation after 9/11, saying very little has been accomplished.

He charged that the actual workload is being handled by officials in Southern Nevada.

“No one at the state level is in charge of this,” Keller said.

But Public Safety Director Jerry Hafen and Commission Chairman Dale Carrison supported the move.

Hafen said Emergency Management Director Frank Siracusa can handle homeland security issues until the next Legislature, when he intends to ask that a Homeland Security director be created and given clear legal status and authority.

He also said about a dozen other states have made the same decision, arguing that homeland security belongs within Emergency Manage-ment, which is under the Public Safety department.

Hafen emphasized his remarks aren’t aimed at Siracusa, who he said has done “an exceptional job.” But he said Siracusa and his staff already have more than enough to do.

But current Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie joined Keller, saying, “You’re going to have a hard time convincing me that Frank now has the ability, with all the other things he has to do, to do this.”

Hafen said the existing structure really doesn’t have any teeth because it was created by executive order. He said it needs to be presented to the Legislature and given power to act.

Commission members also were told that Homeland Security administrator Rick Eaton will resign at the end of this month.

Carrison said he supports the move because “it’s time for all the people in the boat to be rowing in the same direction.” He said his concern is that problems within the existing Homeland Security office may cost the state money if federal grants aren’t properly managed and committed to projects in a timely manner.