Fusion centersSenate panel’s report harshly criticizes role, utility of DHS fusion centers

Published 3 October 2012

A 2-year bipartisan investigation by the U. S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has found that DHS efforts to engage state and local intelligence “fusion centers” has not yielded significant useful information to support federal counterterrorism intelligence efforts; the report says that senior DHS officials were aware of the problems hampering effective counterterrorism work with the fusion centers, but did not always inform Congress of the issues, nor ensure the problems were fixed in a timely manner; DHS estimates that it has spent somewhere between $289 million and $1.4 billion in public funds to support state and local fusion centers since 2003 (the report says that these are broad estimates which differ by over $1 billion); the Senate investigation raises questions about the value this amount of funding and the contribution the fusion centers make to the U.S. counterterrorism efforts; not everyone agrees with the report; Rep. Peter King (R-NY), chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said: “I agree with Chairman Joe Lieberman and Ranking Member Susan Collins [of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security] that the subcommittee report issued this week paints with too broad a brush an incomplete picture that fails to recognize many of the important contributions that fusion centers have made in securing our Homeland”

A 2-year bipartisan investigation by the U. S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has found that DHS efforts to engage state and local intelligence “fusion centers” has not yielded significant useful information to support federal counterterrorism intelligence efforts.

“It’s troubling that the very ‘fusion’ centers that were designed to share information in a post-9/11 world have become part of the problem. Instead of strengthening our counterterrorism efforts, they have too often wasted money and stepped on Americans’ civil liberties,” said Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), the Subcommittee’s ranking member who initiated the investigation.

A Permanent Subcommittee release says that the investigation determined that senior DHS officials were aware of the problems hampering effective counterterrorism work with the fusion centers, but did not always inform Congress of the issues, nor ensure the problems were fixed in a timely manner.

“Unfortunately, DHS has resisted oversight of these centers. The Department opted not to inform Congress or the public of serious problems plaguing its fusion center and broader intelligence efforts.  When this Subcommittee requested documents that would help it identify these issues, the Department initially resisted turning them over, arguing that they were protected by privilege, too sensitive to share, were protected by confidentiality agreements, or did not exist at all.  The American people deserve better.  I hope this report will help generate the reforms that will help keep our country safe,” Coburn said.

”Fusion centers may provide valuable services in fields other than terrorism, such as contributions to traditional criminal investigations, public safety, or disaster response and recovery efforts,” said Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan), Subcommittee chairman.  “This investigation focused on the federal return from investing in state and local fusion centers, using the counterterrorism objectives established by law and DHS.  The report recommends that Congress clarify the purpose of fusion centers and link their funding to their performance.”

DHS estimates that it has spent somewhere between $289 million and $1.4 billion in public funds to support state and local fusion centers since 2003 (the release notes that these are broad estimates which differ by over $1 billion).  The investigation raises questions about the value this amount of funding and the nation’s more than seventy fusion centers are providing to federal counterterrorism efforts: 

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