Homeland Security eyes data fusion in states, localities
By Chris Strohm, National Journal's Technology Daily
November 3, 2006
The Homeland Security Department hopes to improve information sharing with state and local government fusion centers by giving those centers intelligence officers and an advanced communications network for classified information, a senior official said Friday.
Department Chief Intelligence Officer Charles Allen said he plans to have intelligence officers embedded at 18 fusion centers by the end of fiscal 2007 and at all other centers by the end of fiscal 2008. Fusion centers are central locations where local, state and federal officials work to receive, integrate and analyze intelligence.
"As intended, these centers will maximize state and local abilities to protect, prevent and respond to criminal and terrorist attacks, and recover from natural disasters, by compiling, analyzing and disseminating criminal intelligence, threat assessments and public safety, law enforcement and health information," Allen said during a keynote speech at a conference organized by the Association for Intelligence Officers.
"My plan is to embed in these centers -- every one of them -- a team of intelligence officers whose responsibilities include ensuring robust, two-way sharing of information," he added. "This plan is a culmination of meetings with representatives from across the Department of Homeland Security and with outside agencies as required."
Allen said he already has deployed officers to centers in Atlanta; Baltimore; Baton Rouge, La.; Los Angeles; and New York. He said more officers will be deployed to centers in Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Texas and Virginia by January.
"The result cannot be other than improved intelligence analysis and production capabilities at the state and local level," he said.
He said all levels of government would benefit from better relationships at the centers. "We will be more attuned to state needs and constraints. State and local authorities will themselves benefit from improved information flow from [the department] and, through us, from the national intelligence community," he said.
State and local governments, however, said lack of access to classified information on a routine basis at fusion centers is a major problem. Allen said he plans to address that problem through better use of information technology.
He said the department is retooling the Homeland Security Information Network at the secret level to communicate with centers on an interim basis until a more capable system is developed. Allen called the network "a weak system" that he is "going to get rid of" by replacing it with the Homeland Security Data Network.
He added that he plans to have the new network installed by January at every center where he has intelligence officers.
"My vision is an intelligence community that views the states as both customers and collaborators in analytic efforts of mutual concern," he said. "To achieve this vision, secure connectively is needed."