Combating terrorism: Five things to know about a fusion center

This news organization is examining how the U.S. government is combating the threat of terrorism at home 15 years after the 2001 al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on America.

As a result of the 9/11 Commission Report, the National Network of Fusion Centers was created jointly by the United States Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Justice and the Office of National Intelligence.

We visited fusion centers in Columbus and Cincinnati to see how the operations fit into today’s national counterterrorism strategy. Watch for more online stories this week and a special report in Sunday’s newspaper.

What is a fusion center?

Fusion centers are multiagency, multidisciplinary task forces that receive, gather, analyze and share threat-related information and intelligence among federal, state and local law enforcement as well as public officials responsible for critical infrastructure and resources safety. They are owned and operated by local and state entities and overseen by the Department of Homeland Security

Staff members from about half of the almost 18,000 state and local law enforcement agencies in the nation serve as fusion liaison officers.

Who works in a fusion center?

Law enforcement analysts who monitor tiplines, crime reports and information from open sources like news outlets and social media make up the backbone of fusion centers. The analysts investigate suspicious activity reports that come in from the public and and share law enforcement reports with other fusion centers and pertinent agencies and private partners. On a need-to-investigate basis, analysts may access classified information stored in various government databases provided the analyst has proper security clearance.

How many fusion centers exist?

The United States currently operates 78 fusion centers. Each state has a primary fusion center as well does the District of Columbia and the territories of Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Many states have secondary sites called recognized fusion centers.

How much does the country spend on fusion centers?

It cost more than $328.3 million to operate the nation’s fusion centers in 2014, according to the National Network of Fusion Centers. The largest portion of the funding, 34.5 percent, came from states while local entities contributed 21.8. Federal grants provided 22.4 percent of operating costs while 20.8 percent came from direct federal expenditures.

How many fusion centers are in Ohio and where are they located?

Renamed in July, the Statewide Terrorism Analysis and Crime Center in Columbus, created in 2005, is designated by the governor as Ohio’s primary fusion center. It was formerly the Strategic Analysis and Information Center. Additionally, the state has two other federally recognized fusion centers: the Cincinnati/Hamilton County Regional TEWG Fusion Center located in Cincinnati and the Northeast Ohio Regional Fusion Center in Cleveland.

Source: Department of Homeland Security

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