CRS report says fusion centers are off track

Anti-terrorism information-sharing and analysis is taking a back seat to criminal intelligence at the more than 40 state intelligence fusion centers, according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service.

State governors created the centers, and the Homeland Security Department provides part of the funding. Their purpose is to fuse federal, state and local intelligence against terrorism, but CRS found the fusion centers have gravitated more toward collecting and analyzing criminal intelligence and all-hazards intelligence.

The service found few indications that the centers have been making efforts to become aware of terrorist plans and foil attacks.

'While many of the centers have prevention of attacks as a high priority, little 'true fusion,' or analysis of disparate data sources, identification of intelligence gaps and pro-active collection of intelligence against those gaps, which could contribute to prevention, is occurring,' wrote CRS researchers in the report, 'Fusion Centers: Issues and Options for Congress.'

It was authored by specialists Todd Masse and John Rollins and analyst Siobhan O'Neil.

The fusion centers have received $380 million in start-up funding from DHS but many do not have future funding secured, CRS said.

Furthermore, the fusion centers may present risks of civil liberties and privacy incursions and may not be able to demonstrate enough effectiveness without further guidance, the report suggested.

The centers also suffer from a lack of interoperability with other networks and systems, the CRS report states.

Although the federal government has recommended the use of Extensible Markup Language to improve information sharing, it is not required, and many centers continue to purchase proprietary information technology equipment and services that hamper their ability to interact with other systems, the report states.

Alice Lipowicz writes for Washington Technology, an 1105 Government Information Group publication.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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