Federal Oversight and Accountability for State Fusion Centers
Gaudet, Micah J.
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The recent increase in homegrown terrorist activity in the United States highlights a significant shortage of good, strategic analysis for the purpose of combating domestic terrorism and homegrown extremism. This activity is occurring under the purview of fusion centers, which were designed to prevent terrorism after the September 11th attacks were blamed on a lack of information sharing and collaboration. Only 15 percent of fusion centers focus exclusively on counterterrorism. The main critique of fusion centers has been that with limited resources and budgets, the all-crimes focus is hindering the ability to identify domestic terrorists. This paper examines and weighs the policy and political implications of a proposal to increase by 30 percent the number of fusion centers who exclusively focus on terrorism-related issues. To achieve this goal, Congress will pass a bill to increase the amount of funds States are eligible for under the Homeland Security Grant Program in return for a restructuring and reprioritizing of state fusion centers under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Policy-wise, despite limitations on the increase in available funding, fusion center dependence on federal funding is significant enough to warrant the proposal. From the political perspective, the proposal is likely to be supported by New Yorkers, owing in part to New York City’s profile as a target for terrorist attacks and New York lawmakers historical strong, bipartisan support for increasing counterterrorism funding. Perhaps a more salient justification for this proposal is the understanding that, regardless of the outcome of this policy, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will continue supporting fusion centers. Because the proposal is analyzed to be effective and politically advantageous, its implementation is recommended.