Reform needed at fusion centers
The terrorist attacks of September 2001 naturally focused the nation and the federal government on security, including through the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.
A decade ago the DHS announced the creation of 70 "fusion centers," regional operations meant to fuse the intelligence operations of local, state and federal police to augment federal-level intelligence gathering.
Now, after a Senate investigation found that the fusion centers fail to deliver on their promised missions, Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma is on the mark in calling for reforms.
A two-year study by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations found that the DHS could not even specifically detail how much had spent on the fusion centers - an astounding range of between $300 million an $1.4 billion.
The investigation could not identify a single case of fusion centers contributing to the arrest of a terrorism suspect. And, it found that reporting was slow when speed was essential, that some centers recycled old news releases about terrorist activity as "intelligence," and apparently had re-released information that had been shared by the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center.
DHS, the committee charged, initially denied the existence of a 2010 independent report detailing broad deficiencies in fusion center operations and capabilities, and then claimed the report could not be turned over the Congress. And it found that most of the centers' intelligence was not about terrorism, but about crimes such as drug trafficking.
Now, 13 years after the attacks, Congress' task to be ensure that resources are placed where they will do the most good. Regarding counter-terrorism, the fusion centers seem a good place to start such an effort.