The attacks more than five years ago on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon by terrorists believed to be fundamental Islamic extremists dramatically changed the lives of all Americans. The global Intelligence Working Group, a high-level national-security unit created in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 attacks, developed what is called the National Criminal Intelligence Sharing plan as part of a major coordinated effort to prevent and/or cope with future such attacks. From that plan, fusion centers were funded to support a formal intelligence-sharing and communications structure.

The U.S. Department of Justice identified the adoption of standards and the use of a services-oriented architecture as two of the operational steps needed to facilitate information sharing within and between the fusion centers. The adoption of standards includes use of a common terminology and semantic understanding of data elements. This common understanding will enhance the experience of all users through more accurate, more precise, and more comprehensive results. Fusion center technology infrastructures and architectures, it has been determined, should include enterprise level security, scalability, and reliability requirements, but consideration also should be given to the use of federated “single” sign-on and identity-management technologies.

The fusion centers provide all-source collection and production from multiple agencies and a broad spectrum of federal, state, and local information systems. One of the principal challenges in using this approach is that each system usually requires a separate user identification and password to allow access. Conventional identity management refers to inter-organizational access privileges, while federated identity management allows intra-agency identity management and access controls. An excellent example of how federated identity management can be effectively used is the I-Services Gateway system employed by the Michigan State Police. By using this system, federal, state, and local agencies can execute name-check inquiries across the region in a timely and rather easily managed environment.

SOA: A Broad Spectrum of Effectiveness

The term service-oriented architecture (SOA) refers basically to an architecture that allows a user to contract with an existing application to provide a “service” (e.g., a name inquiry) independent of the underlying platform and programming language. This permits faster and more cost-effective integration of disparate data systems to become available. SOA is not tied to any specific underlying technology and may be implemented through use of a wide range of interoperability standards.

Through the combination of service-oriented architecture and federated identity-management fusion centers, participants are able to collect, integrate, and analyze information not only faster but also more easily. This all-source integration is enhanced by the growing trend toward the co-location of fusion centers with emergency operations centers in various regions of the country. Fusion centers are the primary source for the collection and analysis of information. In the event of a major national incident, natural or manmade, or other emergency, the fusion center, depending upon the organizational and governance structures previously established, can: (a) provide the information needed to assist in the coordination and resource allocation of emergency operations centers; (b) assist first-responder agencies and other tactical units; and (c) in certain situations, identify additional emerging threats.

The appropriate and well-timed collection and distribution of key information allows law-enforcement and public-health officials, as well as emergency managers and other first responders, to act rapidly, effectively, and consistently. The end result is a combination of faster and more effective responses, the earlier resolution of crisis situations, and more desirable outcomes. In short, the all-source production of intelligence and information resources provides a better and higher level of the situational awareness needed to detect, deter, prevent, and/or respond to not only major crimes but also acts of terrorism. 

Herbert C. Dodson

Herbert C. (Chuck) Dodson is a Senior Director, Justice and Homeland Security, for Oracle Corporation. With over 18 years of law-enforcement expertise – including local/state law-enforcement experience and participation in federal law-enforcement investigations and intelligence operations – he serves in a trusted advisory role to senior government executives on strategy, vision, funding, industry trends, and business-specific technology solutions. A retired U.S. Army Special Forces Sergeant Major, he also has over 15 years information-technology experience in the design, development implementation, and project/program management of multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional law-enforcement-related information/intelligence systems.

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