Fusion center frustrations (reprise)

Last week I wrote about a thesis that discussed fusion centers and their shortcomings.  I have since received a couple of emails from people who are participants to a message board frequented by those involved in intelligence education.  I won’t divulge names and organizations but one of the commenters seemed to take umbrage at what I wrote and I think they were substantial enough to warrant a response to move the discussion forward (By which he means he thinks he’s right and he can gloat about it.  eds).  So, here are the comments and my reply (Indented text is the unedited comments regarding my post with italics quotes from my original post but really you should read the whole thing in context.  After all, you wouldn’t read Cliff Notes of Shakespeare would you?):

The blogger writes that in his view:

(Fusion Centers)… excel in little other than providing a consistent market for flat screen TVs and new opportunities for patronage and cronyism by owning agencies.

I find this offensive and clearly, he is not aware of the innumerable success these organizations have had with the interdiction of terrorist events, and other criminal activity. The “all crimes” approach they take is beneficial to the nation and helps provide us all with a safer environment in which to live and prosper.

TwShiloh:  It’s hard to decide how to respond to this opening paragraph.  I want to go snarky (‘Yes, please share the ‘innumerable’ successes of fusion centers.  Or, how about just one?) but that would be beneath me (who are you kidding? eds.) and not in the spirit of how I want this post to go.

Getting into a battle of whether fusion centers have produced successes is really pointless and beside the point.  The question isn’t if fusion center ‘X’ ever contributed to solving a crime or preventing a terrorist attack.  The question is whether the benefit of the fusion centers (if any) justifies the cost of having them.  The federal government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on fusion centers since 9/11.  Have we gotten a better return (in terms of safety) on money spent on them than if it was spent in some other way?  I don’t know of anyone who’s attempted to do that calculation so arguing about anecdotal events is likely to get us nowhere.

Secondly, ‘All Crimes’ is a joke and not a serious strategy for anyone, including fusion centers.  Let me be clear here because I don’t want to be misunderstood.

All crimes, all hazards is a joke that has NO real value in terms of a public safety strategy.

Its origin came about as we realized that 9/11 was not to be followed up by a long term, coordinated terrorist campaign across the country.  Agencies which has become flush with federal dollars were desperate to keep the gravy train running and so (in an act of the most audacious empire building) decided they’d stake their claim on every potential hazard (natural and man made) that could occur in their jurisdiction.

If people want to make this claim then they should be aware of the consequences.  If the all hazards approach is laden with “innumerable successes” then can we label every crime a failure of the fusion center?  After all, if the mission of a fusion center is to ‘detect, deter and disrupt’ crime and terrorism then I suppose every instance where a GPS system is stolen from a car or a homicide occurs should be considered a failure of the system.  Where is the evidence that crime or terrorism have been impacted by fusion centers?  What are the metrics?  Back to the comments:

This anonymous blogger further writes:

I’ve expressed my displeasure with the Foundations of Intelligence Analysis Training (FIAT) class before.  It’s ok as a broad, superficial introduction to intelligence analysis but its use as the most common job training platform for new analysts borders on the criminal.  Maj. Dietzman demonstrates his amazing intellect by agreeing with me:

…the potential for the students [of FIAT] to apply more than one analytic technique, beyond a very rudimentary level, is doubtful…analysts are introduced to several analytical methodologies, but with almost no application

Contrary to the apparent assumption of this blogger, FIAT is not designed to make an individual an analyst. In fact, just as the title describes, it is a foundations course, on which other training is built. In a similar fashion, Introduction to Biology, does not make one a physician, let alone a biologist. Contrary to this anonymous blogger, although he may have a military background, the military does value FIAT. By example the US Army has successfully used this course of training, as it is intended, as a foundations level class. Not having read the thesis, I do not know if the Major’s words are taken out of context.

TwShiloh:  The intent of FIAT is incidental.  The fact is that FIAT has been used as the course for introductory analysts all over the country.  Frequently it is the only analytical ‘training’ they are given.  I have no idea if this is due to the way the course is marketed to agencies or if this is just a reflection of the general disregard most analysts are held in by their agencies.  Few agencies spend more than a pittance on analytical training and development which is another (but by no means the primary) reason why fusion center capabilities are so anemic.

As for law enforcement leaders placing value on training and not education, if the blogger accurately quotes the Major, I would disagree. Law enforcement leaders, far and wide, place great value on education of officers. The difference is they do place greater value on training as a means of developing and honing skills, once an individual is in the job. Education is not disregarded at all. I know many law enforcement leaders who have pursued advance degrees, many receiving terminal degrees. I entered law enforcement in the 70’s, and now as a grandfather, still tied to law enforcement thirty some years later, I have seen a major change in this attitude, for the better. When I began my career, even a baccalaureate degree was not common. Today, leaders in to forefront, yes even those in the forefront of law enforcement intelligence, are exemplified by people such as New Jersey State Police Superintendent, Joseph R. Fuentes, PhD.

TwShiloh:  I never said NO law enforcement officers are interested in education (but I always like seeing my old friend Mr. Strawman).  I know and deeply respect many, many law enforcement officers who have a great deal of educational experience.  The point I think Maj. Dietzman is making is that organizationally law enforcement favors training over education.  I can only add that my personal experience (and that as described to me by numerous analysts around the country) agrees with Maj. Dietzman’s observations.

I do agree with this anonymous blogger that education is important for one to be a viable analyst. Further, training beyond FIAT is vital. Beyond that, an understanding of the value of analysis by law enforcement leadership is important, and improving. Is it perfect?

Very little is.

An example?  Anonymous, the link in your blog, cited below and mentioned above,  “Foundations of Intelligence Analysis Training (FIAT) class”, takes the reader to a map of Italy……

TwShiloh:  Hmmmm…Do I really have to explain the subtle genius behind making the connection between the FIAT course and an Italian automaker renowned for making unreliable products that often leave their owners in the lurch with a huge repair bill?  If I do, I think I’ve also proved my point.



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