June 21, 2008

Fusion Centers and Enterprise Architecture

An important way to share law enforcement and intelligence information in a physical setting is through fusion centers.

Government Technology’s Emergency Management Magazine, Spring 2008, states “the ultimate goals of any fusion center is to prevent terrorist attacks and to respond to natural and man-made threats quickly and efficiently.”

“Data fusion involves the exchange of information from different sources—including law enforcement, public safety, and private sector—and with analysis, can result in meaningful and actionable intelligence and information…The fusion process allows relentless re-evaluation of existing data in context with new data in order to provide constant updates.”

Fusion centers bring together federal, state, local, tribal, and private sector subject matter experts to share information, provide risk and threat assessments, and provide a coordinated response.

“Nearly every state now has a fusion center to address gaps in data sharing.” In the fusion center, there is real time video monitoring that can be panned and zoomed, GIS mapping capabilities and the ability to amalgamate information. The advantage of the fusion center is that all participant organizations have the potential of seeing and hearing the same thing at the same time—although local authorities “cited difficulties accessing federal information systems.”

Not all fusion centers are permanent; some only are formed to deal with special security events like the Olympics and so forth. But those that do function 24x7 hone the skills of the participants by having them work together in a steady ongoing fashion.

While you would think that technology would do away with the need for fusion centers, since the information can be shared virtually, and therefore participants would not need to be co-located, there are benefits to having people deal with people from other organizations face-to-face.

As a User-centric enterprise architect and one who believes strongly that the human capital perspective is under-appreciated or neglected altogether, I appreciate the need for fusion centers, joint operations centers, interagency coordination centers, and the like to share not only information and technology resources, but to actually work together, cooperate, coordinate, and build stronger ties across functional and organizational silos. This is really what “enterprise” architecture is all about—breaking down the silos and building a unified, more effective and efficient organization.

The fusion center solution acknowledges that the challenge of law enforcement, intelligence, and counter-terrorism efforts needs to go beyond pure information technology initiatives. We can’t afford to just have siloed agencies and organizations working out of their own “corners.” There is a need for people to come together and collaborate in a face-to-face environment.

As architects, there is an erroneous tendency to focus on technology solutions. This is suboptimal. We need to look at business process improvement and reengineering, the introduction of new technology, and continuing to build an ever more skilled, innovative, and cohesive work force. This User-centric EA approach ties to a three-pronged approach of people, process, and technology.


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