Friday, March 09, 2007

DHS' New Intel-Sharing Coordinating Group

According to a brief article in Federal Computer Week, DHS has a new coordinating group that's focused on sharing intelligence with state, local, and tribal officials.

Starting [March 1], state, local and tribal law enforcement officials will receive federal intelligence through a new coordinating group established to focus the information in a way that meets those officials’ needs and to unify federal policy on threats to public order.

Lora Becker, incoming director of the interagency federal state and local threat reporting and assessments coordination group, said the group would not generate alerts, warnings or updates on homeland security threats. Its analysts will provide strategic assessments of threats and disseminate them through established routes, such as the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Forces and the dozens of technology-rich state information fusion centers.

The new coordinating group is a policy initiative established under the federal intelligence reform law that established the Information Environment project. That law, known as the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, also consolidated the federal intelligence community under the director of national intelligence.

Becker noted that the coordinating group would obtain intelligence from the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, the Defense Department, the CIA, the State Department, the National Counterterrorism Center and other intelligence agencies.

The group's organizers plan to exchange staff members with the partner agencies on one-year assignments.
Are the partner agencies participating in the exchanges are limited to federal agencies, or state and local as well? They're likely to have a better understanding of state and local needs if the staff exchanges extend across levels of government, and not just within federal agencies.

The fact that they're working, in part, through the state fusion centers further reinforces the importance of these centers, which are increasingly the focus of federal efforts to share information in the new Information Sharing Environment. (See previous blog entries like this, this, this, this, and this.)
DHS officials have previously stated that their department’s intelligence officers assigned to the state fusion centers have terminals linking to the department's top-secret network.

Michael Mines, FBI deputy assistant director for the intelligence directorate, described bureau policy toward the fusion centers, saying "the FBI sees these [fusion] centers as a natural bridge to the joint terrorist task forces. We have over 100 analysts assigned to the 42 fusion centers."

Mines said the bureau had obtained security clearances for more than 300 state, local and tribal law enforcement officials to facilitate information sharing.
Within the fusion centers, there's also integration with the private sector - an especially good idea, especially regarding critical infrastructure - since about 85 percent of critical infrastructure assets are under private control:
Jeff Wobbleton, Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center watch coordinator for the Maryland State Police, described how his center has framed a policy for integrating the private sector into its activities. Wobbleton's fusion center has integrated about 150 private sector organizations into its procedures for gathering and sharing information.

"You have to understand that [private company employees] are our eyes and ears," Wobbleton said.

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