By Bart R. Johnson, Acting Undersecretary for Intelligence and Analysis, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and former Colonel, New York State Police
n April 2009, the H1N1 virus was at the peak of its first outbreak, and state and local partners were anxious to understand the local impact of the national outbreak and its implication for homeland security. As this scenario played out in states across the country, state and major urban area fusion centers became a nexus for information sharing. Leveraging information from the federal government and fusing it with state, local, and tribal data, fusion centers were well positioned to advise homeland security advisors and governors on the local H1N1 threat. In states like Alabama, fusion centers played a key role in keeping senior leaders advised so that they could make informed decisions to protect the safety and security of Americans.
Supporting state and local partners on the front lines of the homeland security effort is a key priority for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). DHS recognizes that state, local, and tribal law enforcement, firefighters, health workers, emergency managers, and critical infrastructure owners and operators have unique information and subject matter expertise that is relevant to protecting the nation. Fusion centers serve as a natural place to bring these disciplines together in states and cities across the country. The secretary has called fusion centers the cornerstone of the department’s information sharing with all levels of government and across disciplines. Given this critical priority, DHS has reinvigorated its efforts to support fusion centers with a more coordinated, unified, and resourced approach.
DHS has recently announced that it will establish a Joint Fusion Center Program Management Office (JFC-PMO). When operational, the JFC-PMO will marshal the efforts of the entire department to bring the full capabilities and resources of DHS to fusion centers. It is envisioned that the JFC-PMO will enable the department to expand and enhance its support to state, local, and tribal partners.
|What Is a Fusion Center?|
|A fusion center is “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.”|
Source: Fusion Center Guidelines
The Department’s Long-Standing Commitment to State and Major Urban Area Fusion Centers
On July 31, 2009, in an internal departmental memo, Secretary Janet Napolitano directed that DHS strengthen the baseline capabilities and analytical capacity of state and major urban area fusion centers. The Office of Intelligence and Analysis was tasked to serve as the focal point for developing and implementing a department-wide initiative to support and interface with state and major urban area fusion centers.
By way of background, the implementation plan for the federal Information Sharing Environment, established by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, directed the federal government to promote the work of fusion centers as a means of facilitating effective collaboration and information and intelligence sharing. The National Strategy for Information Sharing, issued by the White House in October 2007, specifically designated fusion centers as the primary focal point for integrating homeland security information vertically and horizontally across geographical and jurisdictional boundaries.1 This was followed by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 (9/11 Act), which mandated that the department support and coordinate with state, local, and regional fusion centers.
In June 2006, DHS issued the DHS Support Implementation Plan for State and Local Fusion Centers and designated the Office of Intelligence and Analysis as the executive agent for managing DHS’s fusion center development program. 2 Beginning with the deployment of a single intelligence operations specialist to Los Angeles, the program has grown to 50 representatives in the field supported by a headquarters office that serves as a resource for those staff members. This has been accompanied by the installation of Homeland Secure Data Network terminals in 31 fusion centers, which allow them to share secret-level information with law enforcement and homeland security partners across the country. DHS has granted more than 600 clearances to state and local partners in 2009 alone. The department’s renewed commitment will undoubtedly enable it to provide even stronger support to state and local colleagues.
Reprioritizing the Intelligence and Analysis Mission
In recognition of the growing importance of DHS’s state and local customers, the department, and more specifically, the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, has made organizational changes that will make it better able to contribute to the DHS strategic goals of protecting the nation from dangerous people and goods, protecting critical infrastructure, strengthening the nation’s preparedness and emergency response capabilities, and strengthening and unifying DHS operations and management. The changes will also help meet Secretary Napolitano’s priorities of counterterrorism and domestic security management; secure borders; smart and tough enforcement of the immigration laws; preparing for, responding to, and recovering from disasters; and maturing and unifying DHS.
As she made clear at the National Fusion Center Conference in Kansas City, Missouri, March 2009, and again before the Council on Foreign Relations in New York in July, Secretary Napolitano sees fusion centers as “the centerpiece of state, local, federal intelligence sharing for the future,” with DHS “working and aiming its programs to underlie Fusion Centers.”3
Given that mandate, the mission of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis is to strengthen the ability of the department and of its state, local, and tribal partners to protect the homeland by accessing, integrating, analyzing, and sharing timely and relevant intelligence and information, while preserving the rights, the civil liberties, and the privacy of all Americans. What makes the mission of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis so critical is its ability to take information from the national intelligence community and other DHS components, analyze it, and disseminate it to state, local, tribal, and private-sector partners in a format that they can use. The goal is to be the premier provider of homeland security intelligence and information to the secretary and her leadership team; fellow DHS components; the intelligence community; and state, local, tribal, and private-sector partners.
Joint Fusion Center Program Management Office
The new Joint Fusion Center Program Management Office will coordinate the department’s support to fusion centers. Through this office, DHS will, for the first time, unify efforts of all DHS components in support of fusion centers. As this new office is established, DHS is working to ensure that the organization meets the priorities of the secretary, addresses the requirements of the 9/11 Act and, most importantly, the needs of its state and local partners.
As part of this renewed commitment to fusion centers, DHS intelligence production and dissemination processes will be optimized to best support the needs of its state and local partners. Intelligence and other information intended for state, local, tribal, and territorial authorities will be provided rapidly, using dissemination processes that ensure that all state, local, tribal, and territorial decision makers responsible for law enforcement, counterterrorism, and other homeland security efforts have the right information at the right time to make critical operational and planning decisions.
The Office of Intelligence and Analysis will also work closely with its federal partners, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National Counterterrorism Center, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and other intelligence community members, as well as internal components of DHS, to coordinate the dissemination of federal intelligence and other information to state, local, tribal, and territorial officials. The Office of Intelligence and Analysis will work with these same entities to provide state, local, tribal, and territorial officials with all intelligence and other information necessary to support investigative activity, threat monitoring, protective actions, and disaster response preparations—particularly during rapidly evolving threat-related situations and major events or incidents.
The Office of Intelligence and Analysis will support state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement and homeland security entities in their efforts to improve their fusion center capability—notably their ability to gather, assess, analyze, and share information and intelligence regarding threats to both their local communities and the nation. Representatives from the Office of Intelligence and Analysis in these fusion centers will work closely with representatives from co-located DHS operational components and federal personnel (FBI; DEA; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; and so on) to avoid duplication of effort and to ensure close cooperation in the sharing of federal information. The Office of Intelligence and Analysis will also, with these stakeholders, develop tools to assess the value and quality of such products.
Each day across the country, state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement and other homeland security officials gather information in the course of their work to provide emergency and nonemergency services to their communities. The Office of Intelligence and Analysis will analyze and share with its federal partners, including the intelligence community, relevant information to identify regional trends and national threats, as this information may serve as the first indicator of a potential threat to the homeland.
The ability to blend and analyze information gathered and documented by multiple localities and disciplines is vital to the ability of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis to identify regional and national patterns and trends that may be indicative of an emerging threat to homeland security. The Office of Intelligence and Analysis will begin to regularly provide cross-jurisdictional products to the supported fusion centers to assist in their assessment of trends and impacts on each of their communities. It will also support federal efforts to institutionalize the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) Initiative. The Office of Intelligence and Analysis recognizes that SAR is a critical opportunity to engage state, local, and tribal law enforcement in the intelligence cycle given their experience and expertise in gathering information on seemingly unrelated individuals and events. This information enables analysts to consider and evaluate information at the strategic and tactical levels to create actionable intelligence.
Providing Resources for Fusion Center Success
In recent months, the department has been fortunate to work closely with state, local, and tribal partners on some of the United States’ most pressing homeland security issues. For example, DHS worked with local, state, federal, and private-sector partners, including the five surrounding fusion centers, in support of the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh in September 2009. DHS also deployed six analysts from headquarters to provide intelligence support for the three G-20 Pittsburgh summit command centers. The event allowed DHS to leverage open source materials and information received from fusion centers to support federal, state, and local partners in making informed decisions. Participation by partners at all levels of government allowed leadership to maintain situational awareness of the event and receive timely, relevant information.
DHS has also supported the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center (ACTIC) to partner with the Tohono O’odham Nation, marking what is believed to be the first formalized relationship between a tribal government and a fusion center. The department sponsored a personnel exchange that allowed a representative of the Tohono O’odham Nation to visit the ACTIC for a week in November to work side by side with fusion center colleagues, understand ACTIC lessons learned, and share best practices. DHS is looking forward to deploying a technical assistance team of subject matter experts to support the Tohono O’odham Nation to develop a concept of operations related to tribal participation with fusion centers in coming months. Given the Tohono O’odham Nation’s location along 65 miles of the southwest border, this is a key information-sharing relationship for both the ACTIC and the department.
The successful information-sharing relationships cultivated with the support of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis in both Pennsylvania and Arizona demonstrate the power of collaboration between partners at all levels of government. Expanding and enhancing information relationships with fusion centers through a unified and resourced approach will undoubtedly amplify the success of the national network of fusion centers.
The Way Ahead
DHS is increasing its engagement in fusion centers so that it can provide enhanced analytical support; improve outreach activities; and be a better partner to state, local, tribal, and territorial governments.
The department looks forward to bolstering the technology support it provides to fusion centers. It is committed to expanding the number of fusion centers with secret-level connectivity through the Homeland Secure Data Network from the 31 fusion centers with access today to all 72 fusion centers by the end of fiscal year 2011. To better integrate the department’s unclassified networks, various mission-critical systems, such as U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s Law Enforcement Information Sharing Service (LEISS), are being leveraged and integrated with other unclassified collaborative environments (the Homeland Security Information Network, NextGen, and the Homeland Security State and Local Intelligence Community of Interest) to ensure that critical information is shared among DHS components and their federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial partners in an unclassified format.
Working with other federal agencies, and with the informed input of the fusion centers, DHS will provide training to local, tribal, and state government analysts with the goal of improving their analytical tradecraft. It will target this training to the needs of state and local partners, providing training in locations that are accessible to fusion centers. To complement this effort, DHS will be working with its federal partners, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Criminal Intelligence Coordinating Council, and the broader law enforcement community to ensure that law enforcement agencies are participating in, informing the production of, and ultimately benefiting from the nationwide integrated network of fusion centers to the greatest extent possible.
None of these measures can succeed unless fusion centers continue to operate with the utmost respect for privacy and civil liberty protections. Efforts to gather, assess, analyze, and share intelligence and information will be guided by the dual imperatives of protecting the nation from those who wish to harm it and protecting privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties. DHS will expand its efforts to work with state, local, tribal, and territorial officials as well as representatives of the privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties communities, to ensure that information-sharing efforts comply with both the letter and spirit of the law.
We recognize that the national network of fusion centers can be successful only through the shared commitment by partners at all levels of government. In the coming months, the department will demonstrate its commitment to fusion centers by institutionalizing and resourcing its support to fusion centers to enable their success on the front lines of homeland security efforts. ■
1White House, National Strategy for Information Sharing: Successes and Challenges in Improving Terrorism-Related Information Sharing (October 2007), http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/nsc/infosharing/NSIS_book.pdf (accessed January 8, 2010).
2Department of Homeland Security (DHS), DHS Support Implementation Plan for State and Local Fusion Centers (June 2006).
3DHS, “Remarks by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to the National Fusion Center Conference in Kansas City, Mo., on March 11, 2009,” press release, March 13, 2009, http://www.dhs.gov/ynews/speeches/sp_1236975404263.shtm (accessed January 8, 2010).