News: Departments Negotiate Pact to Help Keep Country Safe
Story by Gerry Gilmore
WASHINGTON - An agreement between the departments of Defense and Homeland Security that calls for sharing some intelligence data with emergency operations centers nationwide is part of post-9/11 efforts to harden America against another terrorist attack, senior department officials said recently.
The more than 60 emergency operations centers -- also known as "fusion centers" -- are managed by state and local agencies. The centers collect information that can be used to combat terrorist threats or for responding to natural or man-made disasters.
Both the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 and the 9/11 Commission report published in 2004 state "that we were not doing sufficient information sharing between federal agencies and state and local agencies," Michael McDaniel, deputy assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense strategy and force planning, said during a recent interview with The Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service reporters.
DHS became involved in helping state and local officials establish fusion centers in their jurisdictions, McDaniel said. "That was great as a first step. But, one of the questions still was: 'How do you share this information?'" he said.
"The whole concept of a fusion center — what's inherent in the word 'fusion' — is a collaboration of information across multiple agencies at multiple levels," McDaniel said, "so that that information comes to a common center-of-gravity, if you will, and at that point is shared," as needed, with analysts from different agencies, including those working at the state and local level.
Much of the nation's intelligence-gathering capability is contained within the Defense Department, McDaniel said. The Defense Department and DHS, he said, have been collaborating over the past few years to provide intelligence information to state- and local-agency analysts.
"Now we have a means in which DoD-provided information can be shared" with state and local officials, McDaniel said, noting that information about foreign-terrorist threats and capabilities "will be very helpful" to local and state law enforcement officials.
However, the Defense Department is not a law-enforcement agency, McDaniel emphasized. The department "does not collect, does not store information" about people, he said.
In October 2007, President George W. Bush established the National Strategy for Information Sharing, which mandates that the federal government share information with state and local agencies that can be used to combat terrorism and respond to natural or man-made disasters, said D. Joe Johnson Jr., DHS's chief of policy, planning and liaison for its National Security Systems Program.
The two departments last month negotiated an agreement to allow security-cleared fusion center employees the ability to access certain Defense Department Web sites through DHS's data network, Johnson said.
The Defense Department "does a lot of work overseas" gathering intelligence that's used to monitor terrorist threats, he said.
Providing access to this information to security analysts at state and local agencies, Johnson said, enables them "to come to better and more-informed conclusions about threats that are happening outside the United States that could potentially occur inside the United States."