In a new study released by the Homeland Security Policy Institute, representatives from over 70 of the nation’s “fusion centers” were queried on their perceived roles and capabilities related to myriad topics within the homeland security and intelligence enterprise. Many of the findings were surprising.
Created as a means of breaking down the traditional barriers inhibiting information sharing between federal, state, and local authorities, “fusion centers” serve as a repository for information gathering, analysis, and dissemination within all levels of the law enforcement and national security community.
Fortunately, fusion centers have made tremendous strides in improving the level of communication among these respective entities. There remain, however, glaring deficiencies that require attention.
Using a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 representing “no capability” and 10 representing “high capability,” over 44 percent of survey respondents rated their ability to “analyze cyber security relevant information” at 3 or below.
With a great deal of attention being paid to the emergent threat posed within the realm of cybersecurity, this number is strikingly low.
The authors of the survey conclude that “our level of cyber awareness and our ability to respond to threats are not what they could (or should) be. The US’ national network of fusion centers is not being fully leveraged in the struggle to address a growing cyber threat to homeland security.”
Along with enhancing cybersecurity awareness and analysis, the need to more fully include our nation’s private-sector partners, especially those who maintain a working nexus to America’s critical infrastructure, needs to be addressed.
Although the daily flow of information between fusion centers and their federal, state, and local law enforcement and intelligence counterparts was robust, the same could not be said of the information flow between fusion centers and the private sector.
Only 2.1 percent of fusion center respondents stated that they received daily information from the private sector. Even more striking, over half of the fusion center respondents stated that owners and operators of critical infrastructure within their jurisdiction were not members of the local fusion center.
If a truly comprehensive network of intelligence collaborators is to exist, private-sector partners must take a more inclusive role within their local fusion centers.
The emergence of fusion centers as a robust tool for information gathering and intelligence collaboration has been a positive development within the law enforcement and intelligence community. The accomplishments of the past 10 years should be seen as only a starting point, however. Recognizing and improving upon the areas where there exists a capability deficit is vital to preventing the next threat to the American homeland.