Fusion Centers Forge Ahead

By Joseph Straw

The core of every fusion center is its analytical component. In the years since 9-11, however, intelligence operations at all levels of government have had to fight to hire and retain the nation’s limited number of qualified intelligence analysts. Kim Edd Carter, coordinator of the Oklahoma Information Fusion Center (OIFC) calls lack of analytical capability a critical “national intelligence deficiency.”
To address the need, DHS expanded the permissible uses of state Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP) funding, which was formerly restricted to equipment and training, to include salaries of state intelligence fusion center analysts. Yet those grants only cover a maximum of three years. Many qualified analysts can choose between a potentially finite tenure at a state fusion center and a more secure and better paying job with a federal agency or government contractor. Arizona’s AcTIC and Georgia’s GISAC, for example, have lost analysts to the FBI.
Some fusion center directors have accepted the notion of providing entry-level analysts with training and benefiting from their service for a limited period before they accept other opportunities. “You can’t tell people, ‘Be committed to our mission, but don’t make any money,’” says Kelly of New Jersey’s ROIC.
The tight market has led to poaching among fusion centers as well. Arizona lost one of its analysts to the city of Phoenix, Norris says. Squires says Utah’s planned SIAC will be run by an official hired away from the Boston Regional Intelligence Center.
Capt. Bill Harris, director of DIAC, says Congress could alleviate the problem somewhat by making state analyst funding a reliable budgetary line item each year, as is the case with funding for several emergency management planning and targeted criminal justice initiatives.
Cohen of PM-ISE says federal officials are focused on setting baseline capabilities for the country’s fusion center network, which will indicate the base of analysts needed. Simultaneously, his office coordinates training so that fusion center analysts, who come from disparate backgrounds, observe ISE guidelines and best practices.
The shortage may ease as current students enter the work force. Increased public familiarity with the analytical side of intelligence has led to more interest among students, such as those at Boston’s Northeastern University, which now offers an academic track in analysis.
Until recently, state and local law enforcement officials involved in information-sharing efforts complained that federal agencies were not “walking the walk.” Their agencies pushed all the information they could to Washington, only to receive a trickle in return.
That has started to change, with establishment of ITACG, which crafts intelligence for law enforcement and the standup of new data portals like HSIN-SLIC and NCTC Online.
But fusion center administrators say that success in state and federal information sharing relies on the same factor as success in the emergency management element of homeland security: trusted relationships. Those relationships can only develop with regular, face-to-face interaction. That occurs when federal agencies assign representatives to fusion centers or in the rare cases in which fusion centers are co-located with the primary units charged with investigating suspected terrorist plots: regional joint terrorism task forces (JTTFs), officials say.
As of late summer, DHS had posted officials at 36 fusion centers, while the FBI has more than 100 employees assigned to 38 fusion centers. At least six fusion centers are co-located with JTTFs.
AcTIC, one of those co-located, grew from a two-person campaign launched in 2002 by FBI Special Agent Ray Churey, former head of the Phoenix regional JTTF, and then-Arizona State Police Major Norm Beasley. AcTIC spokeswoman Norris says that law enforcement officials from other jurisdictions bear negative preconceptions about collaboration with G-Men.
“People’s reaction is, ‘You’ve got the FBI there? How can you work with them?’” But in AcTIC’s case, familiarity has bred cooperation, and Norris says federal information sharing is “greatly improved.”
At GISAC, another co-located facility, day-to-day collaboration has completely worn away any institutional egos and territorial tendencies. “They trust us like they’d trust other FBI agents,” Smith says.
Relationships forged at GISAC form a conduit. “The FBI may not trust the locals, but they trust the fusion center, and the fusion center trusts [the locals],” according to Smith.
Public-private cooperation. Achieving robust public-private collaboration in the collection, analysis, and dissemination of terrorism-related intelligence has proven a tall order. Some industry sectors have information sharing and analysis centers, but they have not yet adopted a framework for sharing information with government entities.
A few states, such as Illinois and Delaware, have succeeded in formally sharing nonclassified products with private-sector stakeholders. States where fusion center operators and private security officials have achieved some level of collaboration say it took a lot of work and is largely the result of having built up trusted relationships.
Illinois’ fusion center, the Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center (STIC), coordinates the state’s Infrastructure Security Awareness Program, through which 180 members from 111 different companies receive electronic bulletins on current threats, according to Illinois State Police spokesman Lt. Scott Compton. To further public/private communication, this year STIC established a position for a private-sector critical infrastructure specialist funded by the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System and the ASIS International Foundation, Inc.
In Delaware, State Police Det. Jim Woznicki, DIAC’s critical infrastructure liaison and a member of ASIS International’s Delaware Chapter, worked with fellow ASIS members—including Raymond Johnson Jr., CHS-III, a security section manager with Wilmington Trust—to coordinate public-private programs such as ASIS’s Operation Cooperation. In that program, ASIS members met with public-sector counterparts to stay abreast of government counterterrorism efforts.
The collaboration gave way to regular DIAC threat briefings at ASIS chapter meetings, private-sector access (for vetted private-sector partners) to electronic threat bulletin boards on the DOJ’s ATIX, and perhaps most important, personal interaction among private security officials and DIAC personnel.
Johnson recalls a report of suspicious activity near a Wilmington Trust facility. It fell to him to make a report to law enforcement via the state’s suspicious activity tip line. The line went to a duty officer at DIAC, one Johnson knew personally. “You call the tip line, and you get someone you know, a real live person at the DIAC,” Johnson says. “With everyone at ease, the information flows a lot better. That level of familiarity definitely means better opportunities for cooperation.”
At the Iowa Intelligence Fusion Center (IIFC), director Russ Porter says officials have developed trusted relationships with firms such as The Conley Group Inc., a guard service firm headed by Tom Conley, CPP, CFE, CISM .
Conley’s degree of collaboration with partners in the public-safety sector from IIFC to the Iowa State Patrol Division to Des Moines International Airport has reached exceptional levels. His firm shares radio frequencies with state agencies during special events and responses and is even incorporated into the airport’s emergency management plans.
Conley says that fault for the overall lack of public-private information sharing involving fusion centers varies. The private sector itself can, however, work to improve matters by taking the public sector’s hand when it’s extended and by improving professionalism in general to counter what Conley calls the unwanted, but warranted, stereotype of the underpaid, ineffectual uniformed security guard.
“A police officer sees enormous incompetence. Then he moves onto other assignments in his career [like a fusion center], but he will never trust private security again,” Conley says.
Government fusion center operators must, however, be able to assure private sector partners of their own security. “The public sector has to protect what the private sector wants to share,” Conley says.


Sad but necessary!

Sad but necessary! When will this challenge to humanity subside? When we consider the positive efforts and talent that is evident around the globe, why does politics and religion continue to be a source of violence and destruction.




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