Strengthening the Bond of Guardians

Law enforcement leaders across the world represent a critical element in the sustained security of their respective communities. In the United States, this has been true since the initial European colonization of North America in the 17th century. In fact, in Jamestown, Virginia, and Plymouth, Massachusetts, Captains John Smith and Miles Standish, respectively, were assigned the essential role of police chief from the very beginning. What is sometimes lost in the role of police chief in those times is that Smith and Standish were also military leaders responsible for the defense of their communities. In their dual roles as police and military chiefs, one might say they were the antiterrorism officers of that time, protecting the community from all criminal threats—domestic and foreign. In spite of today’s seemingly greater complexity, the simplicity of that defense concept is not lost and serves as a reminder of the shared responsibilities of police and military leaders forged long ago.  

U.S. Army’s Role in Combating Terrorism 

In the 17th and 18th centuries, as the U.S. population exploded and legislation increased, it became necessary to draw clearer distinctions between the roles of law enforcement and the military. However, that did not change the essential principle of sharing information and lessons expressed from the very beginning. A recent Army Antiterrorism Strategic Plan advises that “awareness and vigilance is our most certain defense.”2 Of course, that important awareness comes from partnerships among like-minded and mission-oriented organizations like civilian law enforcement and military security professionals. For example, most U.S. Army installation antiterrorism working groups include representatives from local law enforcement agencies. Even more critically, Army law enforcement personnel use the same eGuardian system for sharing information that most civilian U.S. law enforcement agencies use. Moreover, the Joint Terrorism Task Forces at the state level frequently include a military liaison and the information, by design, is shared with appropriate local, state, and federal entities, including all branches of the military. One might make the point that links between law enforcement and military, although more complex, are as formidable as they were in John Smith’s time.  

According to the U.S. Army’s posture statement, counterterrorism—which many civilian law enforcement officers also engage in—is a key role for the military: 

The United States Army is the most formidable ground combat force on earth. America’s Army has convincingly demonstrated its competence and effectiveness in diverse missions overseas and in the homeland. Today, these missions include: fighting terrorists around the world; training Afghan and Iraqi Army forces; peacekeeping in the Sinai Peninsula and Kosovo; missile defense in the Persian Gulf; security assistance in Africa and South America; deterrence in Europe, the Republic of Korea, and Kuwait; rapid deployment global contingency forces; and response forces for the homeland.1

U.S. Army installations like Fort Hood; standalone facilities such as recruiting stations; and operational units, including Reserve and National Guard embedded within local communities, demonstrate both the diversity of the Army and its integration with local communities. As such, the U.S. Army’s presence within these communities involves continuous interaction with local, county, state, federal, and international law enforcement agencies. The Army and police also share a common mission in the prevention of terrorism. The Army is fighting terrorists around the globe and partnering with host nation and U.S. law enforcement to protect communities and restrict the spread of terrorism. The complexity of threats and the overwhelming need for cooperation among the U.S. Army, local civilian, interagency, and host nation law enforcement communities is a reality in today’s environment to effectively counter terrorist activities. These relationships are vital to protecting all communities throughout the world. Increasing partnerships and collaboration between the U.S. Army and law enforcement is a critical part of the Army’s antiterrorism strategy and how it organizes for success.  

One of the U.S. Army’s premier capabilities to understand and track the threat of terrorism is the Army Threat Integration Center (ARTIC). The ARTIC serves as a 24/7 joint law enforcement and intelligence fusion center, responsible for global threat information sharing focused on both internal and external threats to the Army. Operated by the Office of the Provost Marshal General, the ARTIC directly supports current and future operations from an all-threats and all-hazards perspective. The ARTIC integrates, analyzes, and disseminates all-source threat information for commanders, law enforcement, and force protection officials at all levels. This threat information enhances the Army’s operational capabilities and provides shared situational awareness, effective risk-based decisions, and the protection of Army personnel, assets, and information worldwide. Perhaps most important, the ARTIC connects and coordinates regularly with both the intelligence and law enforcement communities at all levels, and is connected to sister services through the U.S. Department of Defense Global Watch and the Pentagon’s Combined Intelligence Center, as well as collaborating with non-U.S. entities such as INTERPOL and the Canadian Transport Security Authority.  fiscal year 2017, the ARTIC generated more than 300 terrorist threat reports to support Army senior leaders and subordinate commands; more than 150 suspicious activity and situational awareness products of force protection interest in support of multi-service and law enforcement partners; and processed reports of non-imminent threats that affected more than 2,200 soldiers, Army civilians, contractors, retirees, dependents, and family members. The ARTIC is linked directly to the Homeland Security Information Network, a shared system used by U.S. federal law enforcement and local law enforcement partners and agencies that enables communication with 78 fusion centers.  

Looking Ahead: Improved Information Sharing 


For a longer view of future threats and necessary preparations, the U.S. Army periodically updates the Army Antiterrorism Strategic Plan, which, for many years, has expressed the Army’s vision for preventing terrorist attacks. The most recent strategic plan, titled Closing the Ring, appropriately includes objectives to improve fusion of information and intelligence.3 These objectives could not be met unless the requisite formal and informal links with civilian law enforcement supported these efforts. There are numerous examples where alert citizens and active policing have thwarted potential terrorist attacks. These examples include the 2011 arrest in Killeen, Texas, of Naser Jason Abdo, who planned to attack soldiers at a restaurant outside Fort Hood, and the 2016 arrest of Lionel Williams, who favored “hard targets” such as military or police in an alleged plan to conduct a San Bernardino–style attack. In a more recent example, police in Ithaca, New York, foiled a potential attack in March 2018 thanks to a report from a Walmart employee. Although the prospective terrorist target is unclear, it is worth noting that multiple Army recruiting stations, Army ROTC detachments, National Guard armories, and Army Corps of Engineers projects are within a few miles of where the arrest took place. Sharing information of this kind could have long-term implications for protection and partnerships across a broad local area.  

There are numerous examples where alert citizens and active policing have thwarted potential terrorist attacks.

A recent major initiative and long-term investment for the U.S. Army is the development and fielding of the Joint Analytic Real-time Virtual Information Sharing System (JARVISS). JARVISS is a threat common operating picture designed to support the antiterrorism and force protection community, the law enforcement community, criminal analysts, emergency management personnel, and operations centers. The system uses advanced analytic algorithms and commercial analysts to provide users with threat information originating from more than 80,000 open sources, including social media, news media, local municipality services, commercial business, and government sources. Threat information is geolocated, providing the user with the distance to the closest Army assets. JARVISS is cloud based, making it accessible from anywhere in the world through fixed-line or mobile applications. 

Law enforcement users in JARVISS will be able to view installation and off-post crime data overlaid on an installation map, with detailed geospatial data outlining building footprints and other points of interest. This information can be displayed in a number of ways, including pin mapping and hot spot mapping for the installation as a whole or by patrol zone. JARVISS will also enable users to automatically generate crime reports that display crime data over a specified period or provide detailed information on specific offenses. The functions within JARVISS are designed to save time for military police and criminal investigators and standardize reporting across the Army. While investigating the recent package bombings in Austin and San Antonio, Texas, the ARTIC and Army Operations Center were able to leverage JARVISS to provide updates to leadership and threat advisories to the field. As JARVISS continues to be embedded in Army operations worldwide, the value of enhanced information sharing across the Department of Defense and the U.S. government, and back and forth with local and host nation law enforcement, is extremely promising.  

The U.S. Army’s antiterrorism community is constantly seeking ways to improve, and the principal guide that drives improvement is a strategy reflecting the long-term objectives of the organization. Some objectives of the Closing the Ring strategy address subject areas that may overlap with many police organizational strategies. Topics such as how to address threats posed by small unmanned aircraft systems and improving detection and defenses against insider threats have spawned the sharing of best practices and lessons learned. The same can be said about addressing terrorist attacks. In fact, the Army has gathered critical information from civilian law enforcement case studies of the Mumbai swarm attack in 2008, the Washington Navy Yard insider attack in 2013, and the Las Vegas mass shooting in 2017. Moreover, the Army’s largest push toward increased public awareness of the terrorist threat originated in 2009, with a campaign called iWATCH Army, closely coordinated with and developed in conjunction with the Los Angeles, California, Police Department’s iWATCH initiative. However, it is not only the large metropolitan police forces that Army organizations share intelligence with. Today, the potential for terrorist attacks requires that Army and civilian law enforcement agencies become learning organizations at all levels. The variety and lethality of terrorist attacks intuitively require effective adjustments to the shared protective posture. As Closing the Ring proposes, “the adaptive nature of terrorism requires a decentralized but coordinated and collective effort in preventing attacks.”4 Part of the solution is in analyzing and sharing lessons learned.  

Today, the potential for terrorist attacks requires that Army and civilian law enforcement agencies become learning organizations at all levels.

At the most recent Annual Army Worldwide Antiterrorism Training Seminar, a gathering of more than 350 antiterrorism professionals, presentations from the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Department of Homeland Security; National Counterterrorism Center; INTERPOL; and the New York City, Las Vegas, and Amtrak police departments reinforced the importance of education and the significance of partnerships between civilian law enforcement and the Army antiterrorism community. Importantly, police representatives from Israel, Canada, and France reminded the attendees that the threat is worldwide and so the partnerships also must be. In 2010, a U.S. State Department counterterrorism official commented that “addressing the challenge of terrorism over the long term demands multilateral cooperation; capacity building; and considered efforts to counter violent extremism by all levels of society and government.”5 Partnership is indispensable to success in achieving the long-term goal of preventing terrorist attacks.  

The Annual Army Worldwide Antiterrorism Training Seminar was created 18 years ago for the purposes of improving information sharing and seeking unity of effort in the prevention of terrorist activities. The seminar focuses on the development of training that benefits the shared counterterrorism community by increasing the understanding of the threats and current operational issues and by providing insights to improve protection efforts. Improving communication with local, state, and federal organizations, as well as international partners, is also an objective. More than 15 separate focus groups provided ample opportunity for deep dives into current and emerging challenges faced by the U.S. Army and its partners.

Over the past 10 years, the Army’s Antiterrorism Division has embraced the value of a guiding strategy to focus priorities and resources, as well as the importance of expanding partnerships and community outreach. Outcomes from the 2018 antiterrorism seminar reinforced these tenets and identified the current near-term priorities for the Army: integration across the security enterprise, threat information sharing, counter-unmanned aircraft systems, cyber awareness, community awareness with increased emphasis on school security, and the need to continuously evolve doctrine and training to remain a step ahead of the terrorist threat. In addition, the fielding of JARVISS demonstrates the commitment to information sharing and understanding of the threat across all environments. The publication of a quarterly newsletter, The Sentry, helps to keep the entire U.S. antiterrorism community of interest informed.6 

Encouraging sustained and expanded relationships between the U.S. Army and local, county, state, federal, and international law enforcement partners is as vital today as it was in colonial times and will undoubtedly remain a critical aspect of success for the future. Baseball player Yogi Berra once supposedly opined, “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.” Yogi’s homespun wisdom serves to remind all those involved in public safety to focus on the vision of preventing terrorist attacks. The counterterrorism community knows where it is going—to “get there” requires partnership between civilian law enforcement and military antiterrorism officers at all levels.  


1 2017 Posture Statement of the U.S. Army. 

2 U.S. Army, Closing the Ring, Army Antiterrorism Strategic Plan (Washington, DC, March 22, 2017). 

3 U.S. Army, Closing the Ring. 

4 U.S. Army, Closing the Ring. 

5 “Preventing Terrorism: Strategies and Policies to Prevent and Combat Transnational Threats.” Remarks by Anne Witkowsky, U.S. Deputy Coordinator for Homeland Security and Multilateral Affairs, OSCE Expert Conference, Astana, Kazakhstan, October 14, 2010.

6 The Sentry is a quarterly publication from the Department of the Army, Office of the Provost Marshal General, Antiterrorism Division.