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Highlights

Recent terrorist activity, such as the attempted Times Square bombing, underscores the need for terrorism-related information sharing. Since 2001, all 50 states and some local governments have established fusion centers, where homeland security, terrorism, and other intelligence information is shared. The federal government recognizes the importance of fusion centers; however, as GAO reported in October 2007, centers face challenges in sustaining their operations. GAO was asked to assess the extent to which (1) the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has taken action to support fusion centers' efforts to maintain and grow their operations, and (2) DHS and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have supported fusion centers in establishing privacy and civil liberties protections. GAO reviewed relevant legislation and federal guidance; conducted interviews with 14 of 72 fusion centers, selected on the basis of location and time in operation, among other factors; and interviewed DHS and DOJ officials. The views of fusion center officials are not generalizable but provided insights

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Homeland Security 1. To enhance the ability to demonstrate the results fusion centers are achieving in support of national information sharing goals and help prioritize how future resources should be allocated, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the State and Local Program Office, in partnership with fusion center officials, to define the steps it will take to design and implement a set of standard performance measures to show the results and value centers are adding to the Information Sharing Environment and commit to a target timeframe for completing them.
Closed - Implemented
In September 2010, we reviewed and reported on actions the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has taken to support fusion centers' efforts to maintain and grow their operations. We reported, among other things, that DHS, in coordination with the Program Manager for the Information Sharing Environment (PM-ISE) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), had a nationwide, annual assessment of centers' baseline capabilities underway to help identify operational gaps and planned to use this information to develop strategies and realign resources to close gaps going forward. We further reported that if centers were to receive continued federal support, it was important that standard performance metrics be developed for the national network of fusion centers to demonstrate the impact of centers' operations and their value added to the nation's information sharing goals. As a result, we recommended that the Secretary of Homeland Security direct the State and Local Program Office, in partnership with fusion center officials, to define the steps it will take to design and implement a set of standard performance measures to show the results and value centers are adding to the Information Sharing Environment and commit to a target timeframe for completing them. DHS agreed with this recommendation and, in October 2013, reported that in the time since the release of GAO's report, DHS's Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A), in cooperation with its partners in the National Network of Fusion Centers, has defined an initial set of performance measures and conducted its 2012 annual assessment of the fusion center network using these measures. Specifically, DHS reported that it broadened the scope of its Fusion Center Performance Program from a focus on capability development to include an evaluation of the National Network's performance in contributing to national information sharing and homeland security outcomes. DHS reported that an initial set of five performance measures were finalized in April 2012 and then performance data were collected from the National Network to cover the same reporting period as the 2012 annual assessment using an online self assessment tool. DHS also reported that an expanded set of performance measures are currently under development and intended to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the broader value and impact of the National Network. These steps are consistent with our recommendation and should help DHS measure and demonstrate the results and value fusion centers are adding to the Information Sharing Environment as the annual assessment process is conducted each year.

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