Mayer and Downing recommend that DHS begin dramatically downsizing the 77 fusion centers recognized by the department and more fully integrate them into the FBI’s existing counterterrorism architecture. While they state fusion centers are co-located with FBI JTTFs and Field Intelligence Groups (FIGs)—who manage the intelligence cycle in the field— in some areas, most fusion centers remain geographically disconnected from the FBI’s counterterrorism hubs.
“Just as DHS cut back on the number of urban areas that received funds through the [Urban Areas Security Initiative] program from 63 urban areas to 31, it should also dramatically reduce the number of fusion centers” receiving federal money, they write.
The reason for this is simple. At a time of enormous fiscal constraint, states and localities cannot afford to run and staff fusion centers. Moreover, in many parts of the country the risk doesn’t justify the cost of operating fusion centers. In those areas, DHS should stop allocating federal funds to sustaining fusion centers. If those states and localities cannot fund those fusion centers without federal money, then so be it, said Mayer.
The report also criticizes the FBI for unnecessarily expanding its domestic intelligence architecture. In Chicago, the FBI has piloted a Joint Regional Intelligence Group (JRIG) and has plans for 11 more. The purpose of the JRIG, according to Mayer and Downing, “is to coordinate intelligence with federal agencies, establish a prioritized threat domain, and ensure that FIGs are focused on the mission at hand.” They find the concept redundant and competitive with fusion centers, “further fragmenting America’s domestic counterterrorism enterprise.”
“Let’s not put another mouth at the table,” says Mayer. “Let’s cut down the number of fusion centers to the places where there’s really risk, and let’s figure out how to make them work closely with the FIGs and the JTTFs and get what we need done.”
♦ DHS/FBI Intel Report Snapshot