"A fusion center is a collaborative effort of two or more agencies that provide resources, expertise and information to the center with the goal of maximizing their ability to detect, prevent, investigate, and respond to criminal and terrorist activity."
- Baseline Capabilities for State and Major Urban Area Fusion Centers (October 2008)
State and major urban area fusion centers (fusion centers) serve as primary focal points within the state and local environment for the receipt, analysis, gathering, and sharing of threat-related information among federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) partners. 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 (PDF - 22 pages, 2.21 MB), emergency response, public health, critical infrastructure protection (PDF - 30 pages, 3.54 MB) and private sector security personnel to lawfully gather and share threat-related information. They provide interdisciplinary expertise and situational awareness to inform decision-making at all levels of government. Fusion centers conduct analysis and facilitate information sharing, 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:
Fusion centers contribute to the Information Sharing Environment (ISE) through their role in receiving threat information from the federal government; analyzing that information in the context of their local environment; disseminating that information to local agencies; and gathering tips, leads, and suspicious activity reporting (SAR) from local agencies and the public. Fusion centers receive information from a variety of sources, including SAR from stakeholders within their jurisdictions, as well as federal information and intelligence. They analyze the information and develop relevant products to disseminate to their customers. These products assist homeland security partners at all levels of government to identify and address immediate and emerging threats.
Beyond serving as a focal point for information sharing, fusion centers add significant value to their customers by providing a state and local context to help enhance the national threat picture. Fusion centers provide the federal government with critical state and local information and subject matter expertise that it did not receive in the past – enabling the effective communication of locally generated threat‐related information to the federal government. Integrating and connecting these state and local resources creates a national capacity to gather, process, analyze, and share information in support of efforts to protect the country.
Our nation faces an evolving threat environment, in which threats not only emanate from outside our borders, but also from within our communities. This new environment demonstrates the increasingly critical role fusion centers play to support the sharing of threat-related information between the federal government and SLTT partners.
- National Security Strategy (May 2010)
In 2007, the National Strategy for Information Sharing called for the establishment of "baseline operational standards" for fusion centers. In 2008, the federal government, in collaboration with SLTT partners, published the Baseline Capabilities for State and Major Urban Area Fusion Centers (PDF, 37 pages - 4.6 MB) to establish baseline operational standards and to outline the capabilities necessary for fully operational fusion centers. By achieving the baseline capabilities, a fusion center will have the necessary structures, processes, and tools in place to support the fusion process.
During the 2010 National Fusion Center Conference, Fusion Center Directors, in partnership with the federal government, distilled the Baseline Capabilities for State and Major Urban Area Fusion Centers into National Network priorities, including four Critical Operational Capabilities (COCs):
- Receive: Ability to receive classified and unclassified information from federal partners
- Analyze: Ability to assess local implications of that threat information through the use of a formal risk assessment process
- Disseminate: Ability to further disseminate that threat information to other state, local, tribal, territorial and private sector entities within their jurisdiction
- Gather: Ability to gather locally-generated information, aggregate it, analyze it, and share it with federal partners as appropriate
Additionally, both Fusion Center Directors and the federal government identified the protection of privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties (P/CRCL) as a key priority and an important enabling capability to ensure fusion centers protect the privacy and other legal rights of Americans, while supporting homeland security efforts.
Strengthening the ability of fusion centers to execute the COCs and ensure P/CRCL protections is critical to building an integrated National Network of Fusion Centers capable of sharing information with the federal government and SLTT partners during situations involving time-sensitive and emerging threats. In September 2010, federal, state, and local officials conducted a Baseline Capabilities Assessment (BCA), the first formal assessment of fusion center capabilities. The data collected during the BCA provided a snapshot of fusion center capabilities and identified major trends, as well as strengths and gaps across the National Network.
The current focus of the federal government is to support fusion centers in mitigating the capability gaps identified by the BCA and to assist fusion centers in reaching an enhanced level of capability for all four COCs and P/CRCL protections. The Department of Homeland Security, in coordination with federal interagency partners, has developed and provided a wide range of resources and services, including a guidebook, sample policies, templates, best practices, workshops, and various training sessions, to support fusion centers in strengthening their COCs and P/CRCL protections. The Department will continue to assist fusion centers in fully achieving and maintaining the COCs and P/CRCL protections.
In recent years, partners at all levels of government have reiterated the need for unified and coordinated support for fusion centers. The federal government is committed to assisting them in becoming centers of analytic excellence that serve as focal points for the receipt, analysis, gathering, and sharing of threat-related information among federal and SLTT partners. Federal interagency partners, including Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Program Manager for the ISE, Office of National Drug Control Policy, and Department of Defense, are committed to providing effective, efficient, and coordinated federal support to fusion centers. In turn, fusion centers support their SLTT partners by developing actionable intelligence, disseminating relevant information to homeland security partners, participating in the Nationwide SAR Initiative, and supporting the maturation of their statewide fusion processes.