Homeland Security funding formula doesn’t recognize Vegas’s real population
Even before the Las Vegas shooting, Nevada’s Division of Emergency Management and its Clark County counterpart were warning that too little federal homeland security money was going to Las Vegas.
Caleb Cage, head of the Division of Emergency Management, said just two days before the Oct. 1 massacre that killed 58 and injured nearly 500, he and John Steinbeck, head of Clark County’s Office of Emergency Management, sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security renewing their concerns about the funding formula. The problem, Cage said, the formula looks primarily at a metropolitan area’s residential population.
“They’re not looking at the 43 million tourists who come here and that we have a significant number of the 25 largest resort hotels in the world,” he said.
But he said that isn’t the only problem. The other is that total Homeland Security grant funding for the two programs Nevada most depends on has decreased dramatically over the past few years.
Since 2008, State Homeland Security Program (SHSP) money has fallen from $862.9 million nationally to $402 million. Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) funding — money aimed at the metro areas deemed most at risk — has dropped from $781.6 million to $580 million.
The decrease in what Nevada has received is even more dramatic, he said. SHSP funding to the state fell from $9.39 million in 2008 to $3.75 million — nearly 60 percent less. UASI funding went from $9 million to just $2.8 million this year — down 69 percent.
“The decline has had a tremendous impact on us,” said Cage.
In the past 12 years, the state of Nevada has received a total of $161.3 million in Homeland Security grants designed to prevent and respond to terrorist attacks and other events.
Of that, $55.4 million, fully a third of the total, was UASI money and all of it went to Clark County for programs aimed at protecting the Southern Nevada tourism industry and the Las Vegas Strip.
Total homeland security grants to Nevada have pretty much fallen steadily since the first year of funding, 2005. That year, total grants awarded the state were $24.8 million. That number fell every year through 2013 when the state received just $3.46 million and no UASI money despite the fact even the feds agree the Las Vegas Strip is a very vulnerable target.
Funding has crept up a bit again. In 2017, SHSP and UASI grants to Nevada totaled $6.58 million. But Cage said that is far from enough to support the preparation, training, equipment purchases and other efforts needed.
Cage said the solution is to change the funding formula that currently doesn’t take into account a metro area’s tourist population or factor in actual events. For example, he said Orlando, where 49 people were killed by a gunman at a nightclub isn’t even on the list for UASI funding.
He said, however, that in the wake of what happened outside Mandalay Bay Oct. 1, he and Steinbeck along with Nevada’s congressional delegation are redoubling efforts to change that.
“This incident has obviously shined a light on that,” he said.