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Today the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations published this lengthy investigative report, which provides devastatingly negative answers to these questions with regard to Fusion Centers.
The Subcommittee Report is getting wide media coverage, and a lot of that coverage is predictably focused on important concerns about alleged waste and mismanagement of funds and about privacy or other civil liberties.
A two-year bipartisan investigation by the U. S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has found that Department of Homeland Security efforts to engage state and local intelligence “fusion centers” has not yielded significant useful information to support federal counterterrorism intelligence efforts.
“It’s troubling that the very ‘fusion’ centers that were designed to share information in a post-9/11 world have become part of the problem. Instead of strengthening our counterterrorism efforts, they have too often wasted money and stepped on Americans’ civil liberties,” said Senator Tom Coburn, the Subcommittee’s ranking member who initiated the investigation.
The investigation determined that senior DHS officials were aware of the problems hampering effective counterterrorism work with the fusion centers, but did not always inform Congress of the issues, nor ensure the problems were fixed in a timely manner.
It is difficult, if not impossible, for the American public to accurately gauge the size of the country’s domestic intelligence effort. Much of that effort is deservedly kept secret, as is the overall scope of America’s intelligence activities at home and abroad. The size of the national intelligence community is not precisely known, but in 2009 then-Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair described it as a 200,000-person, $75 billion per year enterprise.15 By the next year the intelligence budget had grown to $80.1 billion. That number is believed to be twice what it was in 2001, and it is considerably more than the $53 billion spent on the Department of Homeland Security in 2010.16
The Department of Homeland Security estimates that it has spent somewhere between $289 million and $1.4 billion in public funds to support state and local fusion centers since 2003, broad estimates that differ by over $1 billion. The investigation raises questions about the value this amount of funding and the nation’s more than 70 fusion centers are providing to federal counterterrorism efforts