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Chris Jones

Nevada May Receive Less Security Funding

10 December 2004

NEVADA -- Those in Washington who allege that Nevada's reduced potential as a terrorist target make it less deserving of homeland security funding soon will hear otherwise from the state's congressional delegation, Rep. Shelley Berkley told a Las Vegas audience Thursday. Speaking at a Nevada Restaurant Association-sponsored luncheon at Lawry's The Prime Rib, the Democratic congresswoman told the 125 in attendance that last week's Department of Homeland Security decision to trim the state's homeland security grants was "a mstake" she'll oppose in cooperation with her colleagues on Capitol Hill.

The federal agency on Dec. 3 said it would give Nevada nearly $28.4 million in homeland security grants during fiscal 2005, including more than $8.4 million in Urban Area Security Initiative funds for the Las Vegas area. Berkley said the state received about $36 million in such funds the prior year, including $10.5 million for Las Vegas.

With Nevada on pace in 2004 for the first time to welcome more than 50 million visitors in a single year, including more than 37 million in Southern Nevada, Berkley said this is not the time to reduce funding for those who safeguard the state's residents and guests.

"If, God forbid, something happens, we're not only responsible for the 1.5 million people that live here, we're responsible for the X number of people that are going to be there," Berkley said. "I don't want to be high up as a terrorist target, but on the other hand I want the resources so if something happens, my first responders have the resources they need."

When word of the cutbacks reached her office last week, Berkley called Homeland Security to learn what drove its decision. She said she was told the department rated an attack on Las Vegas "as far less of a threat" requiring less money than other at-risk areas.

"My staff told me that, and (at first) it made some sort of sense. You're going to put your dollars where they make the most sense," Berkley said following her prepared remarks. "But then I found out communities in Oregon were getting more money per capita than we were, and I said, `Something is wrong here.' "

The delegation plans to make an official inquiry into the allocation process, she added.

"We're looking into it," Berkley said. "We don't want to do this as a loose cannon ... but figure out exactly how and why, and how we can remedy this in the future."

Representatives of the Homeland Security Department told the Review-Journal last week that a cap in place last year limited how much money at-risk cities could receive.

That cap was removed this year, and a larger share of the available funds were awarded to high-risk targets such as New York, which will receive $207.5 million in homeland security grants next year.

Berkley also told those at the luncheon that she'll continue to oppose President Bush's plan to open a nuclear waste repository outside Las Vegas.

Because he carried the state in last month's election,

Berkley said, Bush believes Nevadans aren't interested in keeping nuclear waste out of their state.

"I attempted to disabuse him of that notion," Berkley said of her Monday visit with Bush at the White House.

"Do you think for a minute that those 127,000 hotel rooms that keep this community (economically healthy) are going to be filled up if there is one nuclear waste accident? I think not, and I don't want to kill the golden goose."