Intell fusion centers need to set performance goals, GAO says
DHS, Justice evaluating capabilities of 72 fusion centers nationwide
The first systemwide capabilities assessment is due next month for 72 intelligence fusion centers that use sophisticated IT systems, but there's no formal structure to evaluate their performance on an ongoing basis, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.
The Homeland Security and Justice departments, along with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, are assessing the baseline capabilities of the centers and looking for gaps. Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, intelligence fusion centers have been created by state governments with federal support to collect, share and analyze domestic intelligence information.
However, DHS hasn't developed standard performance measures to determine the centers’ effectiveness and value on an ongoing basis, according to the GAO report.
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Fusion centers to be assessed
Performance benchmarks are needed to help justify federal support for the centers, which amounts to 61 percent of their funding, GAO said. For 52 centers that responded to a GAO survey, their total annual costs were $102 million, of which $62 million was federal funding, the report noted.
Under recent federal guidance, DHS also is developing an annual reporting process for the centers to document their total operational and sustainment costs and to assess the adequacy of current funding mechanisms. That process is due by Oct. 29.
“If centers are to receive continued federal financial support, it is important that they are also able to demonstrate their impact and value added to the nation’s information sharing goals,” the GAO report stated. “However, there are no standard performance measures across all fusion centers to do this.”
DHS officials said they wanted to complete the baseline assessment of capabilities before developing the performance measures.
GAO recommended that DHS' State and Local Program Office, in partnership with fusion center officials, define the steps it will take to design and implement a set of standard performance measures to show the results and value centers are adding to the Information Sharing Environment and to commit to a target timeframe for completing those steps.
DHS officials agreed with the recommendations.
Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.