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What Is Fusion Intelligence?

By Daniel Sommer

Fusion intelligence is a term used in the United States to describe the nexus between state and local law enforcement and national intelligence activities both in terms of process and outcome.

The idea behind fusion intelligence, essentially, is to enhance situational awareness so that officials at the local, state, and federal level can better understand and, hence respond, to threats in local communities that may affect national security.

Fusion intelligence, therefore, involves fusing or merging data from a variety of sources to produce a synergy of effective and actionable intelligence products for consumers. Examples of information that may become part of an intelligence package may range from suspicious activity reports collected and compiled by police in a local community to human intelligence (HUMINT) collected from undercover Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents or Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) clandestine officers stationed abroad.

Some of the Challenges of Fusion Intelligence

Because fusion intelligence, as defined here, involves coalescing information gathered from both law enforcement and traditional national intelligence collection agencies, there are a number of challenges to its successful implementation and use by decision makers.

One potential disconnect can be found, for example, in the disparate missions of the CIA and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). Whereas the CIA is responsible for collecting foreign intelligence, primarily through HUMINT sources, the LAPD is accountable for the safety of the people within its jurisdiction, which includes fighting crime. Each of these missions has different requirements for training, experience, skills, education, and expertise.

Fusion Intelligence Solutions

Those charged with intelligence, protection, and counterterrorism analysis and collection in the homeland security domain must have a collective, over-arching vision and mission to overcome obstacles to collaboration and cooperation between different agencies and departments.

Building a paradigm of a “responsibility to share” information as opposed to a “need to know” mindset, which is outlined in the US Intelligence Community Information Sharing Strategy (February 2008), is one way that intelligence officials are working to foster a culture of partnering