The Truth About Fusion Centers

Fusion centers are popping up in local jurisdictions across the country. And the private sector holds major stakes in the success or decline of an implementation. Wednesday’s ASIS show featured the educational session, “Private Sector’s Role in State and Regional Intelligence Fusion Centers.”

The session was led by Bonnie Michelman, CPP, director of police, security and outside services for Massachusetts General Hospital, and by Daniel Rattner, DM, an industry veteran for more than 30 years and principal of Rattner & Associates.

The mission of a fusion center is to provide timely, accurate and reliable information across public agencies in an effort to prevent terrorism and other criminal activity. Today, more than 43 fusion centers have been established across the country. The fusion centers are managed primarily by law enforcement personnel, but are of critical importance to the private sector as both a source and consumer of information. Moreover, 85 percent of critical infrastructures are owned and secured by the private sector.

“Without the private sector, we have no way to protect the country,” Michelman said. “The private sector has unbelievable growth.”

Truth be told, fusion centers cannot be possible without the help of the private sector. But even with the help of both private and public entities, there are a number of issues that arise. Challenges include a lack of knowledge from key players, a change in players at the table, historical stereotypes and division and organizational buy-in. Even a greater challenge is the ability to actually share the needed information with the appropriate sources, specifically that information which is classified. Though those are issued faced by the public sector, the private sector’s role in a fusion center is clear.

“The private sector’s role is to act as the source of vulnerability information,” Rattner said.

The private sector is asked to communicate anything that may be deemed as unnatural behavior. The next terrorist can walk through your company’s doors and give clear clues to their intentions, but remain largely unrecognized.

“In the 80s, terrorism was political. Now it’s economical,” Rattner said.

With the increase in wealth of private infrastructures, terrorists are targeting those entities which can cause the most havoc if disrupted. So fusion centers hope to create clear lines of communication between the private and public sector. Nonetheless, the closing of the session was left open ended. The question remains: Are they really working?

About the Author

Karina Sanchez is the former managing editor for Security Products magazine. She now freelances for Web publishers, trade magazines and corporations.

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