U.S. senator questions efficacy of fusion centers in fighting terrorism

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) says fusion centers might be a waste of money in fighting terrorism. | U.S. Senate

At least one U.S. senator has concerns over state and local fusion centers aimed at combating international and homegrown terrorist threats.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said Monday that the fusion centers have reported problems similar to those discovered following a bipartisan investigation conducted two years ago. Fusion centers are made up of multi-agency organizations and are run locally to prevent terrorist attacks in the country.

The organizations facilitate the sharing of information and intelligence to prevent terrorist attacks in the U.S. About 78 recognized fusion centers operate throughout the U.S. and its territories.

“The fact that after seven years, we still cannot tell whether fusion centers are keeping us any safer means that DHS needs to take a long, hard look at whether it needs to stop funding projects that don’t advance its mission,” Corburn said in a statement.

A new report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has made some progress in assessing fusion-center capabilities. DHS has developed 11 performance measures, but the department has not tried 10 of them yet, the GAO report said. 

The centers graded themselves in 2013 and gave themselves A's, but the GAO report said the grades say little about how the centers are combating terrorism.

The GAO reported that DHS wasn't able to provide data on how much taxpayer money it provided to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for fusion centers.

The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations found in 2012 that fusion centers spent money on flat-screen TVs, SUVs, hidden “shirt button” cameras and other items. Coburn said the GAO report found few improvements after the 2012 investigation.

Organizations in this story

United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs 340 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510

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