Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

March 14, 2009

Fusion Centers’ Future

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on March 14, 2009

On Wednesday, March 11 Secretary Napolitano addressed the National Fusion Center Conference in Kansas City.  She had signaled to colleagues and congresspeople this would be an especially important speech. Her complete remarks are available on the DHS website.

The Secretary covered a lot of ground and the transcript suggests she was not reading (much) from a prepared text. (Can anyone in the audience chime in with your impressions?)  But in my reading  Napolitano signaled three particular priorities for Fusion Centers:

Analysis is what generates value and analysis must be applied from every angle of the information web.  In answering a question from the audience she said, “… the goal I’m trying to get us to and get you thinking about in this room is whether you’ve simply been passing on things or whether you’ve been really thinking through and analyzing data to the point where it’s knowledge that should be passed on and acted upon, and that requires more than machinery and more than databases. It really requires something that can never be replaced and that’s brainpower assisted by education and training and then we have to have, for those who have that kind of capabilities, we need to make sure we hire them, we train them, we pay them and we keep them.”

Collaboration is the foundation of any value that will be produced by the Fusion Centers. The recent Governor was predictably insistent on the role of state, local, and private sector assets in an effective bottom-up information sharing web.  She said,  “…the partnerships involved in Fusion Centers need to be looked at very, very broadly…  let’s think about Fusion Centers in a way as a place where we have—the phrase I’ll use is collaborative space. The opportunity not just to share information across different departments… the city police department with the county sheriff with the local DHS ICE person with somebody from the FBI, not just at that level, but as a place to share information across disparate disciplines, law enforcement, fire, public health, emergency management, critical infrastructure protection… let’s not forget the private sector when we’re looking at those partnerships. They can be a vital part of this as well, and also provide vital support for the sustainability of Fusion Centers as we move forward… private sector partners are key. They—they can help in terms of sharing of information.”

Fusion should be about all-crimes and probably about all-hazards.  The Secretary said, “The Fusion Centers are designed to look at many, many more things beyond that (terrorism). For example… a serial kidnapper, a gang or organized crime syndicate in an area, a serial or pattern murderer all have been handled by Fusion Centers. They’re not necessarily terrorists… Then the Fusion Center also includes capacity for response and recovery… They (the private sector) certainly are essential in terms of response and recovery and they need to be prepared and trained and co-located to do that, and then, you know, there’s a huge element of getting to know your private sector partners and, you know, getting to know the people at your local utility that may have been totally disabled by anything from a terrorist attack to an ice storm who need—and what they will need to do and how they will need to do it to get up and running again, getting to know your healthcare providers on the private side who may need to be employed should you be dealing with anything from a biological weapon of mass destruction to—to a pandemic or another type of epidemic-type situation.”

The Secretary addressed privacy and civil liberties concerns related to intelligence gathering by Fusion Centers.  What she said was appropriate and necessary.  It was not new.

The speech also seemed  to reinforce an even broader priority of the Secretary.  At her inaugural hearing before the House Homeland Security Committee at one one point – apropos of nothing in particular, but perhaps everything in general – she nearly shouted, “I am passionate about training!”  Her Kansas City comments  display a continued enthusiasm.

The transcript was not available until almost 5PM on Friday. I never saw prepared remarks. A late Friday release of anything tends to raise suspicions.  But in this case it is my impression the Secretary may not have depended much on a prepared text which complicates distribution, but may increase the value of what is said and – eventually – read.

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1 Comment »

Comment by William R. Cumming

March 15, 2009 @ 11:53 am

Speaking of the importance of training, exactly what training is given to staff of the fusion centers?

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