April 22, 2008 By Jim McKay, Justice and Public Safety Editor
Nearly every state now has a fusion center to address gaps in data sharing, but many are not being used to their full potential because of problems that range from getting clearance to access information to the lack of funding to hire personnel, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released April 17, 2008.
Although one goal of the fusion center is to share federal intelligence with local officials, that is sometimes not as easy as it should be, according to the report. Some local officials cited difficulties accessing the federal information systems. Others said that although the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) grant clearances for locals to access sensitive information, the process takes too long.
Local fusion center operators also are frustrated that sometimes key data is released only to federal personnel who are stationed at the center.
A lack of training and guidance was another issue that some fusion center officials said were problems, and that a guideline on establishing and operating fusion centers would be helpful.
Officials in 43 of the 58 fusion centers said they had encountered problems acquiring personnel, and 54 fusion center officials reported that federal funding was less than they need for sustainability.
The report explained that the DHS, DOJ and the Office of the Program Manager for the Information Sharing Environment (PM-ISE) are taking steps to remedy these challenges. It also said the PM-ISE agreed with a GAO recommendation that the federal government define and articulate its long-term role for fusion centers and whether the federal government will provide resources for fusion center sustainability.
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