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Acting Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis Bart R. Johnson Speech at National Homeland Defense Foundation Symposium

Release Date: 
November 9, 2009

Colorado Springs, Colo.
National Homeland Defense Foundation Symposium VII
(Remarks as Prepared)

Thank you, General Eberhart, for that kind introduction and for your and Don Addy’s invitation to address this National Homeland Defense Foundation Symposium.

I’m delighted to be with you this morning, ladies and gentlemen, to speak about the exciting and important work that DHS, and specifically my Office of Intelligence and Analysis, is doing to further evolve and define how the department works with the Intelligence Community and our federal, state, local, tribal, and private sector partners to keep the Nation safe and secure.

DHS I&A was established by statute after the September 11 attacks to improve the coordination of intelligence in order to prevent, deter and prevent terrorist attacks. This includes serving as a smart and aggressive customer of the Intelligence Community, having a seat at the table when our nation’s intelligence collection priorities are determined, and serving as a single repository where crucial information may flow between the Intelligence Community and our homeland security federal, state, local, tribal, and private sector partners.

We have a unique mission at I&A—to be the premier provider of homeland security information and intelligence to state, local and tribal governments—and Secretary Napolitano has tasked us to do a better job of focusing and defining that mission. Having served as governor of Arizona, attorney general of the state and U.S. attorney in Phoenix, the Secretary’s background is rich in state, local and tribal governments. She is committed to information sharing and has made it one of DHS’ top priorities.

In response, we have realigned the Office of Intelligence and Analysis to be the focal point—the one-stop shop, if you will—for state, local and tribal governments to come to for information and intelligence on homeland security threats. We are committed to providing our customers with that information and intelligence accurately, quickly and in the form that they can best use it. We are also committed to doing so with the utmost respect for the civil liberties, civil rights and privacy of all Americans.

We work closely—and on a daily basis—with DHS’ other components and with our other federal partners, including the Intelligence Community, the Department of Justice, FBI, National Counterterrorism Center, Office of National Drug Control Policy, Joint Terrorism Task Forces and the HIDTAs (or High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas) task forces.

Fusion Centers

But what makes I&A unique is that we take information from the national Intelligence Community and other DHS components, analyze it and move it to our state, local, tribal and private sector partners in a format that they can use. We also facilitate the reverse: providing the federal government, including the IC, with information and intelligence from state, local, tribal and private sector partners.

The fusion centers—which are owned and operated by state and local authorities—are the primary way that DHS shares intelligence and analysis with its state, local and tribal government homeland security partners. Having spent most of my professional life in the New York State Police, I know first-hand how valuable fusion centers are to multiplying the effectiveness of our first responder and homeland security efforts.

Here in Colorado, for instance, the Colorado Information Analysis Center (CIAC), or “Kayak” in Denver, served as the funnel for all information and intelligence collected, analyzed, produced and disseminated during the August 2008 Democratic National Convention. The I&A representative we have deployed in the CIAC provided intelligence support to the Principal Federal Official and his staff, while assisting in the coordination of all information sharing activities for the four additional I&A analysts sent to Denver for the convention.

More recently, in the Najibullah Zazi case, the CIAC provided a considerable amount of support to the Denver FBI in the investigation and support of the field operations. These efforts are ongoing.

There are currently 72 recognized fusion centers up and running across the country. These fusion centers are at various stages of maturity—some have been operational for several years, while others are at the very early stages of development. The pattern we have seen with most of these centers is an initial focus on the sharing of information across law enforcement agencies.

However, as these fusion centers develop, and as a national network of fusion centers continues to evolve, we have seen and are actively supporting the integration of other disciplines—like the emergency services and public health sectors—into fusion center operations and management.

I&A currently has 44 field representatives deployed to fusion centers across the country. These DHS staff work side by side with their state and local counterparts to share information in real time. They also aggressively reach out to the state and local first responder communities to bring these stakeholders to the table and support the development of mutually beneficial relationships with their fusion center partners.

By the end of fiscal 2010, we will deploy DHS personnel to all 72 recognized fusion centers and all 72 centers will have access to our Homeland Security Data Network that carries classified information up to the Secret level. HSDN, by the way, has just been enhanced by a DHS agreement with the Department of Defense to include classified terrorism-related data from DOD’s SIPRNet network.

I&A Going Forward

As part of our realignment, the Secretary has tasked us with being the manager for a new Joint Fusion Center-Program Management Office that will coordinate support for fusion centers across the department. We anticipate that all DHS components will have new or expanded roles in strengthening fusion centers and the national fusion center network.

In the last six months, President Obama’s Administration has reaffirmed the Federal Government’s commitment to the national fusion center network. This has been visible in several ways, including:

  • Secretary Napolitano’s commitment to assist fusion centers in becoming Centers of Analytic Excellence
  • The White House’s issuance of budget guidance that elevates fusion centers as a key priority and calls for the development of recommendations to establish an interagency Program Management Office

We also recognize that State and local governments are facing unprecedented budgetary challenges that are having a drastic impact on the ability of fusion centers to maintain staff and make progress against the baseline capabilities.

It’s one thing to say fusion centers are important; it’s another to demonstrate that importance organizationally and operationally.

To address these challenges and the elevated prioritization of fusion centers, we are taking the following steps to enhance Federal support to Fusion Centers:

  • Establishing the DHS Joint Fusion Center Program Management Office that I spoke of; and
  • Establishing a National Fusion Center Program Management Office.

The first effort recognizes the Department’s ongoing work to make fusion centers a key priority and apply Departmental resources in a more coordinated manner to enhance:

  • Budget planning;
  • Operational coordination; and
  • State and local support (e.g. training, technology, and technical assistance)

The second effort—establishing a National Fusion Center Program Management Office—will bring multiple agencies of the federal government and representatives of state, local, and tribal governments together in a Program Management Office designed to support Fusion Centers.

As an interim step toward that permanent national office, we are elevating and expanding the work of the National Fusion Center Coordination Group cochaired by DHS and the FBI through the Fusion Center Management Group. The FCMG will build on the success already achieved through the National Fusion Center Coordination Group. It will engage more senior leadership from Federal agencies and provide State and local partners with a direct role in the federal interagency policy making process.

The FCMG also will leverage the key State and local associations, including the National Fusion Center Association, Criminal Intelligence Coordinating Council, National Governors’ Association, Major Cities Chiefs’ Association, International Association of Chiefs of Police, Major County Sheriffs’ Association, and National Sheriffs’ Association. These representatives will support translating the national policy into operational activities.

Our effort with the Fusion Center Management Group is very similar to what is being done with the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative. With the initiative, the ability to train personnel regarding behaviors and indicators indicative of terrorism-related crime will be established across the country. This means that intelligence regarding threats to the homeland will be provided to state, local and tribal law enforcement so that they can use it to train their officers and deputies.

The CIAC [pronounced “Kayak”] in Denver that I mentioned earlier is partnering with New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming to create a four-state regional monthly and yearly summary of suspicious activity. This is an excellent example of horizontal information sharing—and precisely the kind of collaboration and cooperation needed to create a national fusion center network. As Secretary Napolitano told Congress in September: “Let me be clear: The federal government can’t do it alone. Law enforcement on the state, local, and tribal level represents a critical ring of defense against terrorism of all kinds. The Department of Homeland Security assists these so-called ‘first preventers’ in addressing terrorist threats that manifest within the United States – helping them to make sense of the activities they are encountering on the beat that may represent the first steps in a terrorist plot.”

Support for the Integration of First Responders into Fusion Centers

While continuing our support for state and local law enforcement operations within fusion centers, I&A also supports the integration of the fire and emergency services, public health and healthcare communities, critical infrastructure and key resource protection efforts, and cyber security into the fusion centers.

These initiatives are focusing on developing the necessary frameworks, identifying information and intelligence requirements, developing information sharing mechanisms, and providing technical assistance and training to support the fusion centers in their efforts to effectively develop meaningful relationships with these important stakeholders.

Conclusion

We are committed to elevating and enhancing federal support to fusion centers.

While we recognize that bureaucratic changes in Washington seem to not impact a fusion center’s day-to-day operations, these changes, once implemented, should provide the centers with more timely and relevant support from the Federal Government.

In the past, state and local officials sometimes faced difficulties in partnering with the Federal government; we hope to address these challenges in the future. We will use this new posture to address:

  • Conflicting messages
  • Lack of single point of contact during rapidly escalating threat situations
  • Disconnect between policy and grant guidance

Additionally, state and local officials are now at the table when law enforcement and homeland security policies are being considered and developed. This will be important as we begin addressing sustainment and other policy-related issues.

It is critical to the maturity of the national network of fusion centers to achieve the baseline capabilities.

The Baseline Capabilities for State and Major Urban Area Fusion Centers, released in September 2008 by DHS, the Department of Justice and the Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative, identify 12 core capabilities and provides specific instructions on how to achieve each capability.

  • For example, the Privacy and Civil Liberties capability contains more than 40 steps, including items such as appointing a privacy officer, writing a privacy and civil liberties policy, conducting community outreach, and developing oversight mechanisms.
  • Today, most fusion centers are in the process of achieving the capabilities; it is expected to take a period of up to five years to achieve all of the capabilities. Achieving these capabilities will help fusion centers to become centers of analytic excellence that ensure that law enforcement and public safety officials have the information they need to protect America’s local communities.

We will support fusion centers to achieve self-identified priorities.

The fusion center initiative continues to be fundamentally a grassroots effort—one that is driven by our state, local, tribal and territorial partners.

Integrating and connecting these State and local resources benefits all of us; it creates a national capacity to gather, process, analyze, and share information in support of efforts to protect the nation

Based on the priorities identified at the March Fusion Center Directors meeting, we have begun taking proactive steps to address the most pressing priorities of the network to include:

  • Communications and Outreach: We’re in the initial phases of standardizing and developing a communications and outreach technical assistance program and look forward to deploying it over the next year. We’ve also begun the Building Communities of Trust initiative to support fusion centers to engage in dialogue with their local communities
  • Privacy, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties Protections: DOJ and DHS are providing training and reference materials for our state and local partners that help ensure their respect for civil rights and civil liberties. This is an important priority for us, as we work toward a Nation whose people and values are secure.
  • Dissemination: DHS I&A is in the final stage of having a study conducted on dissemination to understand how fusion centers can better share information with their State and local law enforcement partners.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today. With your continued support and advice, we will continue to achieve greater information and intelligence sharing with our state, local, tribal and private sector partners.

I’d be happy to take your questions.

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