Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) is urging the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to reconfigure its Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) grant program, which was established to ensure the safety of high-risk urban areas, and reassess the “Risk Profile” for the Las Vegas area to ensure it has the adequate resources to preempt and protect against terror attacks, which have the potential to shatter Southern Nevada’s tourism economy. In light of recent terror threats made by ISIS against the Las Vegas Strip, Heller argued that the current funding formula ignores the impact of tourism on localities and does not provide Southern Nevada with the resources it needs to protect its residents and visitors.

Las Vegas is essential to Nevada’s economy, and the region remains one of the country’s top tourist destinations. In 2016 alone, the Las Vegas Valley welcomed nearly 43 million visitors with an economic impact of $60 billion. In fact, there are roughly 35 hotels along the Las Vegas Strip, many of which could reach an occupancy of 15,000. On top of that, the McCarran Airport sees roughly 200 non-stop flights a week. 

The letter reads in full:

The Honorable John F. Kelly
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
301 7th Street Southwest
Washington, DC 20024 

Dear Secretary Kelly,

I write you today regarding the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA's) Relative Risk Profile formula for the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI).  Given the recent threats made by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to target locations across the Las Vegas Valley, I appreciate the opportunity to address this issue with you. 

As you know, the UASI grant program was established by Congress (Public Law 110-53) to provide critical funding to ensure the safety of high-risk urban areas.  With guidance from Congress, FEMA developed a comprehensive formula to rank the risk of a terror threat in each urban area.  When utilizing this formula, FEMA must be certain to accurately assess each city's vulnerability, threat, and consequence of a terrorist attack, but the agency also must rely on data that fairly analyzes each city.  I believe that the current formula fails to accurately depict certain data points that impact the Consequence Component, specifically the determination of Level 1 and Level 2 assets and by ignoring the impact of tourism on localities.

As part of a locality’s Risk Profile, Level 1 and Level 2 assets are determined as part of its assessment of both the Vulnerability and Consequence Component.  Unfortunately, the Las Vegas Strip is “clustered” and considered one asset, despite the fact that there are more than 35 hotels along the Las Vegas Strip, many of which have 15,000 occupants at once.  I respectfully request that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) consider each critical infrastructure along the Las Vegas Strip on its own merit rather than including the entire area into one asset. 

Further, the Risk Profile does not take into consideration a locality’s dependence on the tourism economy.  Given its reputation as the Entertainment Capital of the World, Las Vegas saw nearly 43 million visitors last year, accounting for an economic impact of $60 billion.  In fact, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) found that southern Nevada is among one of the most tourism-dependent economies in the U.S.  If a terror attack were to occur in Las Vegas, Nevada’s tourism market would be devastated beyond repair, further impacting the local and state economy significantly.  I respectfully ask that your department adequately consider this impact when determining rankings for the Risk Profile.

Ensuring that Las Vegas has the resources it needs to combat potential terrorist threats is one of my top priorities in Congress, especially in light of threats by ISIS to target the Las Vegas Strip.  I appreciate the opportunity to bring my concerns with the formula to your attention and hope that FEMA will take into consideration the unique challenges that Las Vegas faces as a premier tourist destination as you continue working to prevent terror attacks in the United States.

Thank you again for the opportunity to write to you today.  Please contact me or my staff if you have any further questions.