DHS adds brainpower to intelligence centers

Homeland Security Department officials have begun to place intelligence analysts at fusion centers established by state and local governments to facilitate coordination among the federal, state and local governments.

The move is part of a larger program in which a team of DHS analysts will be placed at every intelligence fusion center, while state and local governments send their analysts to work at DHS headquarters in Washington, D.C. The program is designed to improve trust, collaboration and information sharing among agencies at all governmental levels.

State and local governments began to create fusion centers about two years ago. They allow authorities to collect disparate pieces of data, analyze them, produce actionable intelligence and then disseminate that information to as wide a range of agencies as possible. By collecting data from police officers, other first responders and the private sector, officials believe that they can connect the dots faster to stay ahead of emerging terrorist and other criminal threats.

Jack Tomarchio, principal deputy assistant secretary at DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, said a DHS analyst has been with the Los Angeles Police Department’s fusion center for the past two months. Another DHS analyst will soon be working with the New York City Police Department’s fusion center, he added, while a third analyst will begin working at another unidentified state’s fusion center within two weeks.

These analysts, he said, will work from the fusion centers for two to three years to provide the face-to-face coordination in monitoring terrorist and other criminal activity. After that, DHS will host state and local analysts at its Homeland Security Operations Center for one to three years. The agency is now discussing with officials in three states about participating in such an effort.

John Cohen, adviser to the Information Sharing Environment program manager in the Director of National Intelligence Office, said about 41 states have either established or are planning to create fusion centers. He said he believes within two years that all states will have fusion centers.

“That’s a pretty formidable force,” he said during a session at an annual symposium on justice and public safety information sharing sponsored by Search, a Sacramento, Calif.-based nonprofit group. The group provides state and local governments with technical assistance to improve and connect their information systems through federal funding.

To help with the creation of fusion centers, federal, state and local officials developed guidelines to ensure that all centers operate consistently. Version 1.0 of the guidelines was released in early 2005 and the second version is currently going through the final evaluation process and should be released soon, Cohen said.

Many of the fusion centers have other agents from federal agencies working with state or local analysts, and often both.

Tomarchio said DHS’s plan is to staff each state and local fusion center with three DHS employees. Depending on the state and local needs, the department would send analysts with the appropriate amount of experience and status. For example, he said one fusion center asked for a DHS analyst who would be a mentor to junior analysts while another fusion center asked for someone who would be a liaison.

“We realize this is an ambitious program, and we realize it doesn’t happen overnight,” he said.


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