State and major urban area fusion centers (fusion centers) and High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Investigative Support Centers (ISCs) play unique yet equally critical roles in securing the homeland. Fusion centers are owned and operated by state and local entities and are intended to empower front-line law enforcement, public safety, fire service, emergency response, public health, and private sector security personnel through the lawful gathering, analysis and sharing of threat-related information. HIDTA ISCs are sponsored by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and aim to support the disruption and dismantlement of drug-trafficking and money-laundering organizations through the prevention or mitigation of associated criminal activity.
Overview of Fusion Centers
As described in the National Strategy for Information Sharing, fusion centers serve as focal points within the state and local environment for the receipt, analysis, gathering, and sharing of threat-related information among federal and state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) partners. They produce actionable intelligence for dissemination, but do not generally participate in investigations.
Owned and operated by state and local entities, fusion centers serve the specific needs of their jurisdictions while supporting the broader national security enterprise. Fusion centers overlay national intelligence with local, state, and regional information, enhancing understanding of the threat environment across all levels of government. They augment the federal government’s analytic capability and enhance situational awareness in order to protect the nation.
Fusion centers leverage trusted relationships within the SLTT environment to assist law enforcement and homeland security partners in preventing, protecting against, and responding to crime and terrorism. They support the implementation of risk-based, information-driven prevention, response, and consequence management programs within their respective communities. Further, fusion centers across the nation form a National Network bridging jurisdictional boundaries to provide effective communication channels and collaborative opportunities.
Overview of High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Investigative Support Centers
There are currently 28 designated HIDTAs, which include approximately 15 percent of all counties in the United States and 58 percent of the U.S. population. The ONDCP has recognized that the full benefit of the HIDTA Program can only be achieved with robust intelligence and information sharing. As such, the HIDTA Program mandates that each HIDTA has at least one initiative dedicated to intelligence and information sharing. In the majority of instances, the intelligence and information sharing initiative is referred to as the Investigative Support Center (ISC) and serves multiple states within the HIDTA designation.
The ISC is responsible for collecting, analyzing, and disseminating drug-related law enforcement information and intelligence for the entire HIDTA, but primarily supports ongoing cases or specific enforcement initiatives. HIDTA enforcement initiatives include a variety of multi-agency investigative, interdiction, and prosecution activities targeting drug trafficking and money laundering organizations, drug production organizations, drug gangs, drug fugitives, and other serious crimes with a drug nexus. While the focus of the ISC is to aid in the disruption and dismantlement of drug trafficking and money laundering organizations, HIDTA ISCs may occasionally share relevant intelligence and information encountered through cases within the region that may not have a clear connection to a drug-related crime.
To achieve its objectives the ONDCP has outlined specific core intelligence and information sharing functions for each of the HIDTAs. The core intelligence functions of a HIDTA ISC include:
- Providing analytical case support;
- Issuing drug threat assessments; and
- Developing and disseminating intelligence products such as special assessments, bulletins, and alerts.
The core information sharing functions of a HIDTA ISC include:
- Performing event and case/subject deconfliction;
- Obtaining access to and using law enforcement, proprietary, and public databases;
- Establishing and maintaining electronic connectivity to other HIDTAs; and
- Sharing drug-related information with other HIDTA ISCs and national intelligence centers (e.g., the El Paso Intelligence Center, National Drug Intelligence Center, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, Crime and Narcotics Center, etc.), the Drug Enforcement Administration, and other law enforcement agencies.
In addition to these core functions, each HIDTA Executive Board may establish threat specific functions for the ISCs operating in its region.
High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Investigative Support Centers
Owned and operated by state and local authorities
Created by the National HIDTA Program and sponsored by the ONDCP
Deal with terrorism, criminal, and public safety matters across multiple disciplines, including law enforcement, public safety, fire service, emergency response, public health, and private sector security
Focus on narcotics-related matters and support investigative agencies in the identification, targeting, arrest, and prosecution of key members of criminal drug organizations
Receive, analyze, disseminate, and gather threat-related information
Provide for the collocation and communication between federal and SLTT law enforcement agencies in counterdrug investigations, eradication, and interdiction
Produce actionable intelligence for dissemination to appropriate law enforcement and homeland security agencies
Provide narcotics-related investigative case support, lead generation, and prepare threat assessments, strategic reports, trend and pattern assessments, and organizational studies
Collaborative Efforts of Fusion Centers and High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Investigative Support Centers
In Salem, Oregon, the Oregon Terrorism Information Threat Assessment Network (TITAN) Fusion Center is co-located with the region’s HIDTA ISC. The close proximity of the two centers enables them to work closely together. Recently, TITAN and the ISC coordinated efforts when responding to a lead from a local law enforcement agency regarding an opium operation. TITAN investigated the lead, analyzed resulting information, and facilitated the closure of the operation. The information gathered through this process informed HIDTA’s ongoing investigation into the operation.
Both fusion centers and ISCs are responsible for protecting our nation by serving as valuable conduits for information sharing among federal, state, local and tribal agencies. Their missions are not isolated; to the contrary, counterdrug and counterterrorism efforts both address specific criminal activities that impact our homeland security. There is a clear link between crimes associated with drug trafficking—possession or sale of drugs, larceny, and money laundering—and a variety of homeland security issues, including terrorism. In many cases, these narcotic-related crimes are precursors to or provide financial support for other criminal or terrorism-related activities. As such, the missions of fusion centers and ISCs are complementary and require on-going coordination.
Fusion centers provide ISCs with threat-related information from the federal government, coupled with local context through the analysis of suspicious activity reporting and other information provided by SLTT partners. Knowledge, expertise, relationships, and information held by ISCs are invaluable to assist fusion center partners in identifying and analyzing homeland security threats. By working collaboratively, both entities can ensure patterns and trends associated with criminal and/or terrorism-related activities are more readily identified, thus creating safer communities and a more secure nation.