Interagency Communication Post 9/11 with a focus on Fusion Centers. The post-Cold War period had a significant impact on the American intelligence community and this is because the end of the cold war put various agencies in limbo since they did not completely comprehend their roles. During the Cold War period, all agencies in the intelligence community were focused on the cold war and the Soviet Union such that the end of the war created some confusion on what role each agency was supposed to perform. In line with this, the government made budget cuts to the NSA, FBI, and CIA by between 25 and 30 percent during the 90s (Gingerich, 2013). With the agencies experiencing budget cuts and being unsure of what they were supposed to protect Americans from, there was a general lack of coordination and direction up until the September 2001 attacks that remain etched in American history.
Interagency Communication Post 9/11
From the 9/11 commission report, information sharing was considered a principle shortfall on the part of the intelligence community, with evidence showing that individual agencies had information that if shared would have led to the prevention of the attack. In response to the crisis, government agencies have focused on information sharing where fusion centers have been created to aid in bridging the information gap existing between agencies. The country has 79 Fusion Centers and while there is a misconception that they focus on terrorist related activities only, they analyze all law enforcement related activities and have been successful in preventing various criminal and terrorist linked attacks. The paper that follows makes a critical analysis of interagency communication post 9/11 focusing on the effectiveness of the fusion centers and how information sharing is a vital aspect in the fight against terrorism. The fusion centers have helped to successfully share information in the intelligence community, and they present an effective model of thwarting likely terrorist and crime activities despite challenges of information gaps.
The role of fusion centers
From the 9/11 Commission Report, there is a clear articulation of the fact the attacks may have been prevented had there been comprehensive information sharing between the different agencies. Individual agencies had vital information linked to the terrorist attacks and from hindsight, this means that interagency information sharing would have helped uncover the plot and mitigate the terrorist attack that led to the loss of American life. In line with this and in application of the recommendations by the Commission’s Report, the American government has been in support of the establishment of fusion centers where the mandate is on the sharing of data between government agencies and across the private and public sectors. The goal of the fusion centers is the blending of intelligence and law enforcement information analysis and the coordination of security measures directed towards the reduction of threats in the community (Regan and Monahan, 2014). From this mandate, the fusion centers bring together analysts coming from the local, state, federal, and private sectors in a central location where the fusion of different intelligence streams results in the availability of a large pool of information linked to criminal and terrorist activities.
The critical function of the fusion centers in the post 9/11 period is evident from the intervention and support from different levels. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been a vital support system for the fusion centers since it provides the personnel required, facilitates technical assistance and training, provides the needed technology, and ensures the connectivity of the centers to the federal systems. While the DHS has directly funded the creation of new fusion centers, the emergence of other centers has been through the facilitation of law enforcement organizations including the Joint Terrorists Task Force (JTTF), the FBI, and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program (HIDTA). The funding for these fusion centers has come from different governmental levels and programs. Using data obtained from the DHS, there has been establishment of the fact that states spent 426 million dollars between 2004 and 2009 as well as that while 60 percent of the fusion center funding comes from federal grants, 30 percent comes from states and 10 percent from local funds (Regan and Monahan, 2014). The consideration of funding in this paper emanates from the notion that this highlights the support and commitment from different government levels in ensuring the success of fusion centers. Such means that the contribution of different entities in funding fusion centers implies their support and inclination towards ensuring interagency information sharing.
The original impetus of fusion centers was counterterrorism following the 9/11 attacks, but this has evolved to include all crimes in the United States. The evolving of the fusion centers in handling information linked to all types of crimes means that local law enforcement agencies have been able to use the resources provided by the Department of Homeland Security in meeting a wide range of their needs. Much of this information is tied to counterterrorism and this means that the inclusion of local enforcement agencies has squarely included them in the fight against terrorism in the United States. The fusion centers have gone beyond facilitating protection of the community from terrorist linked attacks and activities to ensuring law and order and reducing other forms of crime. As an example, fusion centers concentrate on crimes considered to be precursors to terrorism or sharing isomorphic coordination and plotting with terrorism activities. Such means that there is a focus on pre-operational behaviors such as the use of drug trafficking as a conduit for not only raising money for terrorist activities but also transferring money and coordinating networks (Regan and Monahan, 2013). In light of this approach, information sharing through the fusion centers not only aids in the mitigation of terrorist linked activities and attacks but also aids in protecting the community free of lesser crimes such as drug trafficking. The evolution of fusion centers to beyond terrorist activities depicts a post 9/11 intervention that increases interagency information sharing and advances the protection and safety of community members.