Fusion Centers: Partnerships in Action
In February, more than 1,000 federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement representatives gathered from around the country for the fourth annual Fusion Center Conference held in New Orleans and co-hosted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the Program Manager for the Information Sharing Environment (PM-ISE) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).
Fusion centers have been established in every state and the District of Columbia, and many major urban areas, post September 11 to improve information sharing among all levels of government to identify, prevent, monitor, and respond to terrorist and criminal activities. The fusion centers are owned and operated by state and local governments. The federal government provides a variety of support to fusion centers, including grant funding, training, technical assistance, access to classified and unclassified systems, subject-matter expertise and support to meet security and privacy and civil liberties requirements, and deployed personnel from DHS, FBI, and other federal agencies personnel. This staffing represents enhanced cooperation between federal and local agencies and highlights the overarching “partnerships” theme evident throughout the conference.
Fusion centers are valued for their ability to fuse information from diverse sources to help partners at all levels of government analyze threats and make our communities safer.
“I’m encouraged by the efforts of my Justice Department colleagues, especially the FBI agents, analysts, and investigators who’ve been instrumental in strengthening these centers,” said Attorney General Eric Holder during the keynote address to attendees. “I’m also grateful to count the Department of Homeland Security as our partner in this work. Together, our two agencies, and our 72 fusion center staff teams, are providing a more accurate picture of threats to our citizens, our economic infrastructure, and our communities. We’re also improving our ability to respond to, and often prevent, disaster.”
Other speakers at the conference included DHS Deputy Secretary Jane Holl Lute who emphasized that when we know more about what is happening we can do more about what we know. And, to learn what is happening she said, “You need to engage neighborhoods and share information state to state and peer to peer.” William H. Webster, chair of the Homeland Security Advisory Council, and former FBI and CIA director, shared that one of the keys to improved intelligence during his tenure at the CIA was sharing information with people who can act to prevent crime. “Today’s name of the game is prevention,” Webster said. And, fusion centers are at the core of that mission.
Attorney General Holder recounted how on a recent visit to the Southern Nevada Counter-Terrorism Center a potential crisis was averted. “That day, the actions of the fusion center staff—and their community partners—in all likelihood prevented a gang-related shooting,” Holder said. “Because the fusion center team members had established a relationship with the local school security community, they were able to communicate clearly and act quickly. Most importantly, they were able to protect, and likely save, lives.”As fusion centers continue to mature and enhance their analytic capability and engage the community, it is clear that they are embracing the core principles of community policing – partnerships and problem solving – in the fight against terrorism.