Guidance for fusion centers to be released

The government is scheduled publish guidance this week for state and local intelligence fusion centers on how to achieve the baseline capabilities necessary to share terrorism and law enforcement data as part of the federal information-sharing environment.

The Justice Department is set to publish the “Baseline Capabilities for State and Major Urban Area Fusion Centers,” created by a federal advisory committee that also wrote the original guidelines for those centers. The guidance, which will be published as an addendum to the original document, was created with input from multiple federal agencies and state and local authorities.

The document obtained by Federal Computer Week will give fusion centers – the focus of the government’s strategy for sharing terrorism-related information with state and local authorities – guidance on how to share terrorism-related intelligence and handle suspicious activity reporting in ways that meet federal standards.

It will also provide guidance on how the centers can meet baseline operational standards for management, privacy protection, security maintenance and information technology.
 
The centers are owned and operated by states and local governments in large urban areas, but many of the more than 50 centers around the country rely heavily on federal grants.

Congress has designated the Homeland Security Department to lead the federal fusion center effort, while the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s Program Manager for the Information Sharing Environment (PM-ISE) also play significant roles. An initial list of baseline capabilities for the centers was released in 2007 and was used in 2007 and 2008 DHS grant planning documents.

However, since 2007 the government has released a series of documents and strategies defining the federal vision for the state and locally-owned and operated centers. For example, the Bush administration’s National Strategy for Information Sharing, released in October 2007, laid out specific roles for fusion centers in the federal government’s information sharing environment that authorities use to exchange terrorism-related data.

John Cohen, a senior adviser for the PM-ISE, said the additional baseline capabilities document was meant to pull together the different programmatic and policy documents that have been released since the Fusion Center Guidelines were released in 2006.

The latest document provides guidance on how fusion centers should meet meeting baseline capabilities for:

• Planning and requirements development for information; suspicious activity reporting; risk assessment; alerts and warnings; data sources; training exercises and coordination with the private sector.

• Information gathering strategies and mechanisms; processing and analyzing information; intelligence analysis and production; information linking, and open-source analysis capabilities.

• Managing the centers and protecting privacy rights through privacy policies, protections, outreach and accountability.

• Ensuring information is secure and staffing and training personnel.

• IT/communications infrastructure, systems and equipment; continuity-of-operations plans.

• Funding and investment strategy.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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