Kentucky Office of Homeland Security Says Local Security Program in the Works

Posted on November 10, 2017

     When it comes to keeping Kentucky safe, the man in charge of homeland security in the state says threats are constantly evolving. Kentucky Office of Homeland Security (KOHS) Executive Director John Holiday testified before the Interim Joint Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Thursday afternoon. Holiday outlined various programs currently underway in the state and how the Office is functioning with a restrained budget. He also spoke about the need for homeland security on the local level and told legislators the state will roll out a hometown security advisory program at the first of the year.

     “It is my opinion the local community should always take the lead,” attested Holiday. The new hometown advisory program will focus on gathering information on a local level. “Our analysts are going to have certain parts of the entire state that they’re going to manage,” explained Holiday. “They’re going to create those liaisons and have real-time data.” Holiday noted people on the ground in local communities will update the state’s geographical mapping system in real time to allow for timely analysis of trends and security issues across Kentucky.

     As KOHS looks to expand its ability to gather and distribute information, Holiday said it’s also continuing to produce information for local, state and federal entities. In the past year he says the Office produced and disseminated 76 intelligence products, answered 382 requests for information from agencies, handled 46 suspicious activity reports, trained 10,000 people for active threat situations and trained 200 new intelligence liaison officers. The Office also supports major events in Kentucky, like the Kentucky Derby and presidential visits. “We’re always on a never-ending cycle of planning,” declared Holiday.

     Kentucky’s Office of Homeland Security includes a Fusion Center that monitors terrorism, cyber threats and organized crime. The Center also handles social media analysis, critical infrastructure and geospatial analysis, which the Office outlined as the next step in providing the most useful data to local communities. Holiday told legislators the Office is functioning on much less money. In 2004 the Kentucky office had a $44 million budget. That dropped to a little less than $4 million in 2017. The Office hands out around $3 million in grants and functions on roughly $1.6 million with a full-time staff of 11 people.

     Holiday and KOHS Deputy Executive Director Mike Sunseri told legislators the Office was not seeking additional revenues for 2018. But, they also stressed the Office cannot suffer any additional budget cuts. The state appropriates $493,500 to KOHS through the General Fund and Road Fund. The remaining $1 million comes from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. “We pride ourselves on providing a lot of the bang for the buck,” Sunseri touted. “But, we do want to stress that any future reduction in funding will directly affect the capabilities of our office to mitigate these ever-increasing and ever-evolving threats.” Holiday told legislators, “With threats growing and evolving, and resources diminishing we have to get creative.” He stressed the Office has been able to handle every situation it’s encountered, but when pressed as to if the Office is adequately funded admitted, “With the threats we are facing on a daily basis? No.” Holiday said one of the biggest challenges the Office faces is determining how to do more with less.

     A new addition to the Office of Homeland Security is the 911 Services Board. Governor Bevin signed an executive order in May assigning the Board to KOHS and replacing local officials on the Board with five gubernatorial appointees. “It went from a 15-member board to a 5-member board,” Jarred Ball, KOHS director of emerging threats and future trends, told legislators. “That’s part of Governor Bevin’s red tape initiative, as he’s done with other boards across the state.”

     This summer KLC Deputy Executive Director J.D. Chaney testified before the same legislative committee on KLC’s opposition to the change. Chaney told the Committee the reorganization of the Board was insulting as legislation passed in 2016 just gave local elected officials representation on the Board. Thursday, Ball gave legislators on the Committee an update on the Board. “Our goal is to push as much money as we can to the 911 centers,” he told members of the Committee. Ball observed the biggest challenge 911 centers in the state continue to face is transitioning to Next Generation 911 and using the IP network to handle calls. He told the Committee the last statewide 911 plan in Kentucky was conducted in 2009.