The Columbus Dispatch has a story today on a new effort in Ohio create a state “fusion center” for terror-related analysis and intelligence:
Today, the Ohio Department of Public Safety is unveiling a new center to identify possible terrorist activity by harnessing the brainpower of state agencies that regulate agriculture, traffic, waterways, public health and other areas.
The Ohio Strategic Analysis and Information Center is being launched with $290,000 in federal funding for equipment and $300,000 for personnel, although most of its 10 to 12 regular employees will continue to draw their paychecks from participating state agencies.
Rather than creating a large bureaucracy, the center will function as a sort of terrorism nerve center for state government, allowing agencies that rarely interact to swap intelligence that might stop terrorists, the head of the center said yesterday.
These kinds of fusion centers (which have been developed in a number of other states) are very sensible investments given their relatively low costs. Even if they don’t deliver actionable intelligence on a regular basis, they still provide a secondary benefit of building trust and linkages among the key state agencies, which could be beneficial in future emergency response situations.
But for spotting sophisticated terror threats, they are no substitute for an effective federal-led system that shares information derived from national intelligence assets with state and local officials. There have been a number of initiative to enhance this state and local info-sharing capacity (i.e. HSIN, JRIES), but these initiatives have been wracked by delay and dispute. Until a solid federal-led system is in place, these state fusion centers are a necessary, but probably insufficient, stopgap.