By Janet Napolitano, Secretary, Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
eeting the homeland security needs of our state, local, and tribal partners is one of my top priorities as Secretary of Homeland Security.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) partners with state, local, and tribal law enforcement every day, whether it’s the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) working with local jurisdictions to crack down on gangs, the U.S. Coast Guard working in cooperation with local authorities to secure ports, or the DHS Office of State and Local Law Enforcement working with officers along the Southwest border to help combat border violence. The key to all of these partnerships is information sharing.
Information-sharing relationships among federal, state, local, and tribal authorities have been instrumental in alerting American communities to a number of threats. Our work to identify and analyze threat streams complements that of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) led Joint Terrorism Task Forces, which work to share case specific information related to terrorism investigations. These partnerships are a successful model that I am working to strengthen.
As a former governor, state attorney general, and U.S. attorney, I know the value of this kind of collaboration. My goal is for DHS to become a source on which law enforcement officers can depend for all information concerning threats to the homeland—from terrorism to drug trafficking to any other public safety danger.
Today, patrol officers can use their mobile data computers or go through a dispatcher to determine whether a person they have stopped is on a terror watch list. What state, local, and tribal law enforcement personnel still need is one central location where they can go to obtain all the information about a public safety threat to their communities and to our nation. There are three basic ways that the Department of Homeland Security is changing our practices to become this kind of resource.
First, DHS is emphasizing state and major urban area fusion centers in our efforts to work with our state, local, and tribal partners. I believe these fusion centers can—with sustained support from DHS in terms of funding, personnel, and access to classified and unclassified information—become centers of analytic excellence. Our partnership with them must be a two-way street: DHS and our federal partners must provide these centers with threat-related information to be analyzed for local implications and be disseminated to state, local, and tribal law enforcement entities for incorporation into their day-to-day operations. At the same time, fusion centers need to aggregate, blend, and analyze information from local law enforcement activities to help DHS and our federal partners identify emerging threats and crime trends across the country.
To do our part, DHS is creating a new office to coordinate support for fusion centers, deploying 70 DHS personnel to fusion centers by the end of fiscal year 2010, and providing all 72 fusion centers with access to the Homeland Security Data Network by then as well.
Second, we are realigning the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis to focus intently on the needs of our state, local, and tribal partners. We are better leveraging and coordinating all the information that flows through our components—whether the Secret Service, ICE, Customs and Border Protection, the Transportation Security Administration, or the U.S. Coast Guard—to ensure we are making the best use of the intelligence collected across DHS and providing more useful and timely intelligence and analysis products.
Third, we are better coordinating with those outside DHS, especially among our federal partners, to address law enforcement needs. DHS is working closely with the FBI in the Joint Terrorism Task Forces. We are also expanding cooperation with other federal agencies in high-intensity drug trafficking areas to leverage the abilities of the many entities that have a role in combating smuggling and securing the border.
We are also collaborating with the IACP and others on the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting (SARs) Initiative, which will help train frontline officers to recognize and document activities possibly linked to terrorism-related crime across the United States. As part of this program, intelligence regarding threats to the homeland will be provided to police departments across the country. Already, those cities participating in the suspicious activity reporting pilot are better able to identify and address emerging crime trends.
These types of partnerships strengthen homeland security efforts for the entire nation because they will aid law enforcement officers on the beat in doing their jobs. As DHS continues to focus on the needs of state, local, and tribal law enforcement, I look forward to working with the IACP to produce collaborative and effective law enforcement tools to keep our nation secure. ■