Problems at Fusion Centers Tied to Poor Training

By Matthew Harwood

One portion of the report focused intensely on the lack of accountability for DHS officials assigned to fusion centers.

Investigators traced 108 of the 188 canceled HIRs to just four reporting officials stationed at fusion centers. The reporters’ cancellation rates, however, were not used to evaluate their performance. In one case, a reporting official had 26 of his 35 draft reports canceled, almost 50 percent of them for civil liberties concerns. According to investigators, he would have received no more than 4 hours training on civil liberties and privacy issues combined during the 33-hour training course.

Nevertheless, the Subcommittee reported that “DHS officials interviewed could not identify a single official who faced significant consequences for shoddy reporting.”

Investigators also discovered that participants in the training courses were not administered tests or graded on their performance. “Trainers did not even have the option of failing a student,” the report states, even though many officials in the training had little intelligence experience before joining DHS.

And even those who did have prior intelligence experience needed more training because of the sensitive nature of reporting on people within the United States. “Privacy [protections for] U.S. person data- it is extremely difficult to get them to understand...those nuances,” Vandover told investigators.

According to the subcommittee report, I&A has suspended the five-day training class while developing a pilot enhanced training course. Yet disagreement exists over how long a reformed training course should be.

Vandover, now a subject matter expert working with DHS on the reform, believes the intelligence training course needs to be six weeks long. Undersecretary of I&A Caryn Wagner disagrees and has limited the course to three weeks. She told investigators that six weeks was too burdensome for DHS component agencies.

“I think the likelihood of components sending people to a 6-week course was pretty slim,” she said.


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