In September 2010, federal, state, and local officials completed the first nationwide, in-depth assessment of fusion centers to evaluate fusion center capabilities and to establish strategic priorities for federal government support.
The 2010 Baseline Capabilities Assessment (BCA) was conducted by the Office of the Program Manager for the Information Sharing Environment (PM-ISE), in coordination with Fusion Center Directors, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and other federal interagency partners.
The objectives of the BCA were to:
- Assess fusion centers’ capabilities in an effort to understand the overall maturity of the National Network of Fusion Centers;
- Leverage the data gathered to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of federal support of fusion centers’ efforts to achieve and maintain baseline capabilities through investment planning and prioritized resource allocation;
- Establish strategic priorities and help identify gaps in capabilities at individual fusion centers and across the National Network; and
- Aide fusion centers in reaching their full potential to serve as focal points within the state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) environment for the receipt, analysis, gathering, and sharing of threat-related information.
The BCA was conducted in two phases:
- Self Assessment: Fusion centers completed an on-line self assessment derived from the Baseline Capabilities for State and Major Urban Area Fusion Centers; and
- On-site Validation: Informed by the self-assessment results, teams of federal, state, and local fusion center subject matter experts conducted on-site validation assessments at fusion centers.
The 2010 BCA on-site validation focused primarily on the four Critical Operational Capabilities (COCs), which reflected the National Network priorities identified jointly by Fusion Center Directors and the federal government during the 2010 National Fusion Center Conference:
- COC 1—Receive: Ability to receive classified and unclassified information from federal partners;
- COC 2—Analyze: Ability to assess local implications of threat information through the use of a formal risk assessment process;
- COC 3—Disseminate: Ability to further disseminate threat information to other SLTT and private sector entities within their jurisdiction; and
- COC 4—Gather: Ability to gather locally-generated information, aggregate it, analyze it, and share it with federal partners, as appropriate.
The BCA also evaluated fusion centers’ capability to protect the privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties (P/CRCL) of Americans - a key enabling capability for the fusion process.
Information from the BCA has been used to inform efforts by the federal government and fusion centers to strengthen fusion center capabilities, mitigate capability gaps, and develop and deploy federal resources.
Fusion Center Directors received individual reports from the PM-ISE, summarizing their fusion center-specific data collected during the BCA and putting that data in the context of the whole National Network.
Critical Operational Capabilities Gap Mitigation Strategy
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano challenged fusion centers to reach an enhanced level of capability for all four COCs and P/CRCL protections by December 31, 2010.
Leveraging the data collected during the BCA, the Department of Homeland Security solicited input from Fusion Center Directors and interagency partners to develop both short- and long-term COC gap mitigation strategies for mitigating gaps in fusion center capabilities:
- Short-Term: The short-term approach outlined immediate actions to help ensure fusion centers are capable of executing the COCs during situations involving time-sensitive and emerging threat information.
- Long-Term: Based on the foundation established by the short-term approach, the long-term COC gap mitigation activities will support fusion center efforts to fully achieve and maintain the COCs and P/CRCL protections.
From September 2010 through December 2010, DHS, in coordination with interagency partners, focused its support on the activities identified in the Short-Term Strategy, including the development and delivery of guidebooks containing templates and best practices, sponsoring workshops and training, and facilitating subject matter expert (SME) support and peer-to-peer mentoring.
These activities provided fusion centers with the skills, tools, and resources to develop and implement their plans, policies, and SOPs, enabling the effective execution of the fusion process in situations involving time-sensitive and emerging threat information.
COC Gap Mitigation Process
Beginning in January 2011, DHS launched an effort to evaluate both the results of the short-term COC gap mitigation efforts and the effectiveness of federal resources provided to assist fusion centers in building their capabilities in the COCs and P/CRCL protections.
Based on the results of this evaluation, fusion centers made progress from September 2010 to December 2010 in building their capabilities and addressing gaps identified during the BCA.
Fusion centers reported significant progress in defining their business processes through the development of final, approved plans, policies, and/or standard operating procedures for each of the four COCs.
The greatest increase in capabilities during the short-term COC gap mitigation efforts were related to COC 2: Analyze, and P/CRCL protections.
Fusion centers overwhelmingly responded that they were provided a clear understanding of the intent and expected timeframe associated with the Short-Term Strategy and that they were provided with adequate guidance to meet the short-term gap mitigation objectives.
A majority of fusion centers also strongly agreed or agreed that they were provided with adequate resources (e.g., training, SME assistance, guidance materials, etc.) to meet the short-term gap mitigation objectives.
The Path Ahead
Fusion centers continue to build their capabilities in the COCs and P/CRCL protections. Assisting with the achievement and maintenance of fusion center capabilities is a shared responsibility of federal and SLTT governments. Looking forward, DHS will continue to partner with fusion centers, state and local governments, and federal partners to assist fusion centers in enhancing their capabilities in a manner that not only increases the efficacy and efficiency of individual fusion centers, but also supports an integrated National Network.
Applying the lessons learned from the 2010 BCA, DHS will partner with federal departments and agencies to institute a repeatable assessment process to evaluate fusion center progress, identify capability gaps in the National Network, and highlight opportunities for federal support to enhance and maintain the National Network.
DHS will also assess the utility and applicability of the short-term gap mitigation efforts to inform the development and implementation of a broader fusion center performance management framework.
- The goal of the broader framework is to move beyond evaluating short-term progress and to conduct regular, periodic evaluations of Network-wide performance focusing not only on the COCs but also the broader capabilities outlined in the Baseline Capabilities for State and Major Urban Area Fusion Centers.
- These efforts will standardize performance measures in accordance with a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommendation to measure and demonstrate the value and impact of the National Network.