Regina B. Schofield, Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs
Western Regional Fusion Center Conference
October 24, 2006
Thank you, Domingo. I’m pleased to be here at this western regional conference for fusion center leaders. It’s a privilege to join you all as we discuss strategies for maximizing our information-sharing and intelligence-gathering resources.
I want to thank Domingo and the BJA staff for taking the lead on this important effort. As you know, our work to establish fusion centers has involved many people from the federal, state, local, and tribal levels, not to mention partners from the private sector. It’s a big undertaking, and Domingo and his staff deserve kudos for keeping the momentum going.
I want to thank each of you as well. This effort is a partnership, and the knowledge, expertise, and influence you bring are every bit as important as the resources that we in the federal government provide.
Fusion centers represent a milestone in our work to fight crime. They reflect the many challenges we now face in protecting our communities and the fact that we need each other to meet those challenges. As Attorney General Gonzales said last week at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference, “Our shared responsibilities are vast. None of us can do it alone.”
We’ve all recognized our need to work together. Never before have we seen a greater willingness among public safety agencies to share data and resources. Never before have we seen this level of collaboration and coordination among agencies. And never before have we witnessed the extent to which those agencies are reaching out to non-traditional collectors of information and intelligence. No stone is being left unturned.
Last week in Boston, the Attorney General cited an example that, I think, underscores the importance of our work here. Last year, the FBI, working with the LAPD and a host of other federal, state, and local
agencies, uncovered a terrorist plot aimed at U.S. military facilities and civilian targets in the Los Angeles area. The plot was aided by about a dozen gas station robberies, which were intended to raise money for the operation.
As the Attorney General said about the case, “sometimes a gas station hold-up isn’t just a gas station hold-up. Sometimes it’s a funding operation for homegrown terrorists.”
Things aren’t always what they seem. In any case, one thing is clear: networks of crime and terror extend far and wide, and when the perpetrators act, they do so intending to do maximum damage. Sharing information and strengthening intelligence aren’t luxuries. They are urgent necessities.
OJP is working on many fronts to expand our nation’s capacity to collect, analyze, and share intelligence.
The fusion center effort is an outgrowth of the Justice Department’s Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative. OJP, through BJA, administers Global, and one of the most important products of that initiative is the National Criminal Intelligence Sharing Plan.
The plan sets forth a strategy for creating a nationwide communication capability that will link all law enforcement personnel, including officers on the streets, intelligence analysts, unit commanders, and executives. It’s a blueprint for public safety administrators to use in building an intelligence function, and it serves as the foundation for the establishment of fusion centers.
The plan was the jumping off point for the Fusion Center Guidelines, which we developed in partnership with local, state, and federal law enforcement representatives. The guidelines are designed to maximize interoperability and communication between fusion
centers. They recommend using the Global Extensible Markup Language, or XML, Data Model, which standardizes data so that it can be shared quickly.
We’re proud of the guidelines, not only because they will enhance interoperability, but also because they reduce the time and the cost for implementing data-sharing systems. And we know that, in this time of competing demands and tight budgets, anything that saves time and cost is welcome.
The Office of Justice Programs, chiefly through BJA and the National Institute of Justice, has been a leader in our nation’s efforts to improve information sharing. Many of you are part of the Regional Information Sharing Systems, or RISS, which is administered by our Bureau of Justice Assistance. RISS is a consortium of regional law enforcement and criminal justice centers that share criminal intelligence and data on terrorism, narcotics trafficking, and other crimes that cross jurisdictional boundaries.
An important component of RISS is RISSNet. RISSNET is the secure intranet connection that allows investigators to share information with their local, state, and federal counterparts.
RISSNet is now connected to the Homeland Security Information Network and the FBI’s secure Law Enforcement on Line, or LEO, system, and it provides investigators a powerful tool for combating terrorism, and crime in general.
Closely associated with RISSNet is the National Criminal Intelligence Resource Center. The resource center is a secure Web site developed to serve as a “one-stop shop” for local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement. It will be a way to keep up with the latest developments in the field of criminal intelligence. The Web address is: www.ncirc.gov.
We also continue to support counter-terrorism training. The State and Local Anti-Terrorism Program administered by BJA provides training for law enforcement on detecting and deterring terrorist activities and on investigating terrorist operations. Last year, we trained more than 10,000 federal, state, and local law enforcement officers under the program.
In addition to training, we’re working to get out information about promising practices. BJA has published four monographs as part of its Post-9/11 Policing Project. The purpose of that project is to identify law enforcement approaches that can enhance our response to terrorism and terrorist threats.
A critical component of that effort is expanding partnerships between law enforcement and private security. Some 85 percent of the nation’s infrastructure – from buildings and shopping malls to utilities to energy production facilities – is privately owned. Yet public safety agencies are the ones in possession of threat information. Sharing that information with private security firms, and involving them in our efforts, are vital to homeland security.
Finally, we are working to improve interoperability. Our Communications Technology Program, in partnership with the Department of Homeland Security, is working to help streamline wireless public safety telecommunications. And the Justice Department’s COPS Office has invested more than a quarter-billion dollars in interoperability efforts throughout the country.
These are just a few of the ways we are working to enhance our nation’s information-sharing capacity. Fusion centers are an important part of those efforts. In fact, they are central to an effective public safety approach in a post-9/11 world.
You are the future of community and national safety. The work you have begun will determine the extent to which we, as a nation, are prepared to keep crime at bay and prevent terrorists and criminals of all kinds from harming our citizens.
I want to thank you for your dedication and to wish you well in your work back home.