Connecting state and local government leaders
Better information sharing across regions and state lines could help counter growing cyberthreats and help law enforcement collaborate, House members said.
House lawmakers on both sides of the aisle called for more investment in state fusion centers to counter threats foreign and domestic at a hearing last week.
Each state and territory has at least one fusion center, which are owned and operated by state and local governments and are responsible for sharing threat information and analysis. There are two types: a Primary Fusion Center provides information for an entire state, and a Recognized Fusion Center serves the same function for major urban areas.
And with the federal government responsible for a share of funding and for supporting the national network of fusion centers, some House lawmakers said the feds should do more to increase their scope, especially as cyberthreats continue to grow.
“While we have made some significant progress, I worry that there continues to be gaps in how we share information in a consistent and timely manner,” August Pfluger, R-Texas, chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Law Enforcement, and Intelligence, said during the hearing. “We have to work together to overcome these barriers as information sharing is critical to combat the wide variety of threats that we face today.”
The call for more funding for state fusion centers received bipartisan support on the subcommittee.
“We must build on the strength of the fusion center model and ensure that collaboration between state and local law enforcement in anticipating and neutralizing terror threats, both foreign and domestic, is as seamless as possible,” said Seth Magaziner, D-R.I, ranking member on the Counterterrorism, Law Enforcement, and Intelligence Subcommittee. “Information sharing between federal and local agencies is vital in neutralizing terror threats and preventing mass casualty events.”
State-level organizations have called for fusion centers to take on a bigger role in cybersecurity, especially as threats have grown significantly.
In 2019, a report from the National Governors Association said governors could enhance the role of their fusion centers in cybersecurity by reviewing their capabilities, becoming better acquainted with information sharing standards and networks, recognizing the role their states can play in that information sharing, learning from other state fusion centers and understanding the challenges they face.
Not everyone is so convinced about the need for more fusion centers, however. The Brennan Center for Justice said late last year that fusion centers produce flawed analysis and abuse their authority to monitor people and collect data. The Brennan Center also said fusion centers have done little to help federal counterterrorism efforts or to reduce crime.
The need for better information sharing is a hallmark of a whole-of-state approach to cybersecurity, which emphasizes partnerships between various levels of government and acknowledges shared risks.
Carlos Kizzee, senior vice president for stakeholder engagement operations at the Center for Internet Security, during last week’s GovExec Cyber Summit said the soon-to-be-awarded federal cybersecurity grants will create “a culture of cooperation and collaboration” between states and within them.
He called on state cyber leaders to “get involved with your peers” through various information-sharing apparatus including fusion centers and the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center. Kizzee said states must view “cybersecurity as a collective defense,” rather than something that “everybody … has to fight on their own.”