Fusion Centers: Enabling a Domestic Architecture for Sharing Information on a Range of Criminal Threats

The U.S. Homeland Security Act of 2002 defines a fusion center as a “collaborative effort of two or more agencies that provide resources, expertise, and information to the center with the goal of maximizing their ability to detect, prevent, investigate, and respond to criminal and terrorist activity [emphasis added].”1 Contrary to often-publicized misinformation, fusion centers do not conduct terrorism investigations, which are the statutory responsibility of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)–led joint terrorism task forces (JTTFs).2 Fusion centers are one response to the vision of the 9/11 Commission, which called for enhanced coordination between U.S. federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies with state and local law enforcement agencies as well as the fusing of domestic information and foreign intelligence in a manner that respects citizens’ privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties. The capability resident within fusion centers is the result of a shared commitment by U.S. federal, state, and local governments, and ensures that relevant threat information is shared in a timely manner. Fusion centers’ value comes from their daily ability to address a range of criminal threats in their specific jurisdictions, as well as the support they provide to U.S. federal law enforcement agencies related to homeland security threats, which are most often non-terrorism criminal threats.