DHS/FEMA Implicated in Tomfoolery
You know, those centers–sleek, state-of-the-art facilities bristling with technology where trained professionals quickly and deftly analyze incoming local and state intelligence data to find crucial information on developing terror schemes. Then, key reports are quickly written and disseminated across the intelligence community, the FBI moves, arrests are made.
A United States Senate Committee with a name too long to type here issued a relentlessly scathing two-year, bi-partisan report yesterday on the Three Stooges/Chaplinesque nationwide Fusion Center effort. When Senators Tom Coburn and Carl Levin agree on anything, it’s NEWS.
The report cites fusion center products, those few that weren’t shot-down outright, as “often shoddy, rarely timely, and unrelated to terrorism.”
Perhaps the only thing worse than a useless product is not knowing how much it cost, sort of. To their credit, FEMA managed to narrow the cost down to somewhere between $289M and $1B. That’s a $700M spread, but it’s only taxpayer money. The report indicates that there is a certain fondness out there for flat-screened TVs as well as Chevy SUVs and button cameras. Button cameras?
The fusion center concept roughly emanates from the 9/11 report which suggested that the existing intelligence framework failed to “connect the dots” where the (mostly) Saudi hijackers were concerned. This new system, created under “W”, was supposed to be the crucial linchpin in forming a coherent, upwardly focused, highly responsive intelligence apparatus. It was also said, by senior DHS officials, to be a “force multiplier.” (I have no idea what that means but I have always wanted to use it in a sentence.)
Instead, it takes months for the often publicly sourced (sometimes from press releases), anemic and shoddy intel reports to be reviewed, re-reviewed and re-re-reviewed by four offices before they are finally published, months later. Luckily, most were shot down in the review stage.
They must be yukking it up over at 10th and Pennsylvania. The FBI looks fabulous. The Senate report makes it clear that FBI is out front when it comes to pushing relevant domestic intelligence up the Federal food chain. They often transmit data same day that it takes DHS months to vet–and then shred.
FEMA comes across as looking like the “Price is Right” on a windy day. Cash swirls lazily about as the slightly dazed winner hears about that new SUV and, oh yes, the all expenses paid vacation to the upcoming “National Fusion Centers Conference.” FEMA has no program to ensure effective compliance or that the stated mission is being accomplished for the millions spent. They are quoted in the report as saying that they don’t micromanage and they need flexibility. Uh-oh.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said during the Great Depression, “Try something. If it works, do more of it. If it doesn’t try something else.”
I think we know where we are on that score.