State and major urban area fusion centers (fusion centers) serve as focal points within the state and local environment for the receipt, analysis, gathering, and sharing of threat-related information between the federal government and state, local, tribal, territorial (SLTT) and private sector partners.
National Network of Fusion Centers
Located in states and major urban areas throughout the country, fusion centers are uniquely situated to empower front-line law enforcement, public safety, fire service, emergency response, public health, critical infrastructure protection, and private sector security personnel to understand local implications of national intelligence, thus enabling local officials to better protect their communities. Fusion centers provide interdisciplinary expertise and situational awareness to inform decision-making at all levels of government. They conduct analysis and facilitate information sharing while assisting law enforcement and homeland security partners in preventing, protecting against, and responding to crime and terrorism.
Fusion centers are owned and operated by state and local entities with support from federal partners in the form of deployed personnel, training, technical assistance, exercise support, security clearances, connectivity to federal systems, technology, and grant funding.
The Current Threat Environment and Role of Fusion Centers in National Security
Both at home and abroad, the United States faces an adaptive enemy in an asymmetric threat environment. Events since May 2009 have demonstrated that the threat to the homeland is not abating. The National Network of Fusion Centers (National Network) is uniquely situated to empower front-line law enforcement, public safety, emergency response, and private sector security personnel to lawfully gather and share information to identify emerging threats. The national security enterprise must reach beyond the capabilities of the federal government and national Intelligence Community to identify and warn about impending plots that could impact the homeland, particularly when the individuals responsible for the threats operate within the United States and do not travel or communicate with others overseas. By building trusted relationships and collaborating with SLTT and private sector partners, fusion centers can gather and share the information necessary to pursue and disrupt activities that may be indicators of, or potential precursors to, terrorist activity. With timely, accurate information on potential terrorist threats, fusion centers can directly contribute to and inform investigations initiated and conducted by federal entities, such as the Joint Terrorism Task Forces led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
According to the 2010 National Security Strategy (PDF, 60 pages - 1.52 MB), the federal government must continue to integrate and leverage fusion centers to enlist all of our intelligence, law enforcement, and homeland security capabilities to prevent acts of terrorism on American soil. Efforts to protect the homeland require the timely gathering, analysis, and sharing of threat-related information. Fusion centers provide a mechanism through which the federal government, SLTT, and private sector partners come together to accomplish this purpose. Beginning in 2003, the federal government, in cooperation with state and local entities, published guidance to enable fusion centers to operate at a baseline level of capability and to form a robust and fully integrated National Network. The National Network allows the federal government, SLTT, and private sector partners to participate as full contributors to, and beneficiaries of, the homeland security enterprise.
This strategic vision can be realized only when fusion centers demonstrate institutionalized levels of capability that enable efficient and effective information sharing and analysis across the National Network. This will help link the federal government with SLTT and private sector entities to more effectively share information. Given the evolving threat environment, it is vital that fusion centers quickly achieve their roles, as explained in the National Strategy for Information Sharing (NSIS), as the focal points within the SLTT environment for the receipt, analysis, gathering, and sharing of threat‐related information.
Enhancing Department Resources to Support Fusion Centers
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has expedited the deployment of resources to fusion centers to enhance their ability to perform their mission. The DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A), the Department's lead for support to fusion centers, has deployed over 90 personnel, including Intelligence Officers and Regional Directors, to the field. I&A also worked aggressively to deploy Homeland Secure Data Network (HSDN) to over 60 fusion centers. HSDN provides SECRET-level connectivity to enhance the ability of state and local partners to receive federally generated classified threat information.
Additionally, the Department significantly expanded training and technical assistance opportunities for fusion center personnel. Through its long-standing partnership with the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department has conducted more than 300 training and technical assistance deliveries, workshops, and exchanges on topics including risk analysis, security, and privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties since 2007. By providing these resources, the Department supports fusion centers to address some of the nation's most significant homeland security challenges.
Expanding the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) Initiative (NSI)
The Department has also launched the "If You See Something, Say Something™" campaign in order to engage the public to identify and report indicators of terrorism, crime, and other threats.
The Path Ahead
Working closely with interagency partners and Fusion Center Directors, the Department supports an annual nationwide, in-depth assessment of fusion centers to evaluate their capabilities and to establish strategic priorities for federal government support. The assessment focuses primarily on four Critical Operational Capabilities (Receive, Analyze, Disseminate, and Gather) and four Enabling Capabilities (Privacy/Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Protections, Sustainment Strategy, Communications and Outreach, and Security) as well as additional priority areas for the year. Leveraging data collected from the Annual Fusion Center Assessment, the Department coordinates efforts to build fusion center capabilities and mitigate identified gaps. These gap mitigation efforts are designed to assist fusion centers in becoming centers of analytic excellence that serve as focal points within the state and local environment for the receipt, analysis, gathering, and sharing of threat-related information.
For further information, please contact the Department of Homeland Security Office of Public Affairs, 202-282-8010.