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Task Force and the Fusion Center: Terrorism Prevention Essay

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Updated: Jun 7th, 2022

Priorities and Security Measures

Firstly, to ensure the success of the operation, a list of priorities has to be established. According to Parker et al. (2017), “preventing radicalization, disrupting attack planning, and mitigating terrorist attacks” are the critical components of any counterterrorism action in the United States (p. 264). More specifically, public communication should be prioritized as one of the most significant aspects of the operation. As Parker et al. (2017) noted, encouraging support and engagement from local communities targeted by the political violence can be a valuable source of information that might later act as crucial in terrorism attack disruption. Given that the public sector and its multiple stakeholders will be aware of the danger, there will be more chances for new intel to appear as a result of careful observation from the citizens’ side.

Furthermore, secure and robust communication channels between the Fusion Center and the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) must be established to ensure the maximum time-effectiveness and efficiency of the operation. Ingram (2018) highlighted communication and information sharing issues as driving forces behind failed attempts in violent attack mitigation. Therefore, creating an environment where both the Fusion Center and the JTTF cooperate and work together is essential.

As it concerns venue security and overall safety measures, the efforts to protect the city will be implemented as soon as the intel about the upcoming attack is available. When prioritizing safeguarding the citizens and their well-being, more attention should be given to increasing the defense capabilities. However, it is also important to note that venue security measures should be further strengthened during public events or at times when large amounts of people are at risk of the terrorist’s strike. Given that the attack target is not yet known, protective measures should be enhanced for so-called “soft targets,” which is a term widely used to indicate places of mass people gatherings (Department of Homeland Security [DHS], 2019, p. 28). Such sites include but are not limited to churches, educational and entertainment facilities, workplaces, transportation nodes, etc. Although some of the establishments, such as religious institutions or malls, might not allow extensive “securitization,” alternative security measures should be provided (DHS, 2019). As a result of the government and private institutions’ collective effort, the public will be protected and political violence risks will be minimized.

Public Outreach Strategy

As it concerns the communication with the public sector, the Department of National Homeland Security (NHS) is obliged to inform the community at risk of possible terrorist threats that might potentially affect them. The communication can be published either in the form of a Bulletin or an Alert. The Bulletin is used in spreading the general message about the upcoming threat if no or little credible information is available about the attack (Homeland Security, 2019). On the other hand, the Alert is issued when the intel about the terrorist act is reliable, and specificities of geographical location, transportation, and goals of the attack are known (Homeland Security, 2019). In the current case, a Bulletin with generally known information will be the primary tool of communication with the public sector to inform them and encourage sharing any new information or observations.

Simultaneously, disclosing any new or discovered intelligence about the upcoming attack prevention can be considered potentially dangerous. Unless intel is secured from leakage to other external agencies, such an information breach can put more people at risk. Therefore, extensive public communication should be set to a minimum to ensure the success of extremism prevention. If such data breach occurs and the upcoming attack mitigation procedure becomes known to the terrorists, more people are threatened since the attackers are likely to change the location and time of the strike, making intel useless and the terrorism prevention strategy meaningless. In case of such failure, there is a possibility that the attackers will start acting in a more desperate and timely manner, which will make locating the new target challenging.

While no direct communication about the details of the upcoming attack and terrorism prevention strategies have to occur prior to the event, undirect counter-terrorist messages can be spread by the government. According to Fisher (2017), while no straightforward information should be disclosed, “frequency of presidential communications regarding terrorism is consistently related to reductions in terrorism targeting the US in the following month” (p. 2). Thus, it can be argued that government public outreach campaigns performed by the White House on the topic of counterterrorism affect either the effectiveness of the operation or the likelihood of the attack. Given the findings of the research into consideration, government officials might be encouraged to promote counterterrorism messages to increase the operation’s success.

Requests to JTTF and Fusion Center

Since the Fusion Center has been supplemented with more staff to analyze the intelligence, I would ask them to pay close attention to the incoming information from the public sector. Given that the public outreach communication strategy will be a useful tool in encouraging citizens and public stakeholders to be more attentive to signs of targeted violence, increasing amounts of observed information will be available. Additional intel gathered by the local community can be a valuable source of information that otherwise will not be accessible. However, the citizen-generated information should be vetted and processed accordingly to separate unrelated findings from potentially helpful input.

As per the requests from the JTTF team that was additionally enhanced by more agent and analyst staff, I would encourage more security measures and cooperation with the Fusion Center. Firstly, to secure the venues and soft targets like churches, schools, universities, shopping centers, and work offices, JTTF agents and private sector security will provide protection and constant monitoring of the premises. As mentioned in the venue safety section above, institutions related to religion and business are some of the most vulnerable, yet most unwilling to increase security (Ingram, 2018). Thus, additional agent staff can promote alternative safety measures by enabling the establishments to tailor a personalized approach to each location based on its specificities and needs (NHS, 2019). Such strategy of emphasizing the defense techniques and community engagement with the help of additional JTTF resources will increase the likelihood of attack disruption.

JTTF and Fusion Center Cooperation

In the scenario where a terrorist attack is forecasted to happen, JTTF and Fusion Center play critical roles in mitigating the attack and minimizing the threat of political violence. However, the question of whether combining the two institutions is necessary for the operation’s success arises. Although communication and intelligence sharing are vital in disrupting the targeted attack, practical cooperation between the departments should be prioritized over combining the two task forces due to the difference in their goals, tasks, and tools.

Firstly, as it concerns the JTTF, it is an FBI-controlled multidisciplinary task force that focuses on actively combating terrorism on local and international levels. JTTF conducts targeted violence investigations and collect intelligence for evaluation and sharing with other related agencies such as law enforcement (Homeland Security, 2016). Thus, it can be argued that the main task of JTTF in targeted violence prevention is crime investigation and intelligence generation.

As opposed to the JTTF, Fusion Centers are local and state-operated institutions that focus on terrorism-related information to provide adequate prevention efforts. Unlike JTTF, they do not focus on active investigations but analyze and share political violence intelligence with related agencies to ensure the local, regional, and nationwide safety. The Fusion Center includes stakeholders from multidisciplinary backgrounds like “public health, emergency response, law enforcement, fire service, critical infrastructure” that all work together to ensure public safety (Homeland Security, 2016, para 7). Therefore, the Fusion Center performs the analysis and information gathering task force rather than serves as an active leader of the investigation, which indicates a drastically different role in counterterrorism operations.

Considering the specificities of JTTF and Fusion Center’s work, they should not be combined, but collaborate effectively. Resource allocation and clear goal and task setting approach that is visible in the current separation of the two task forces would be blurred and made unnecessarily more complicated if one is to combine them. As the statement from Homeland Security (2016) reads, “this field-based information sharing organizations each play a unique yet complementary role in securing the Homeland” (para. 1). Consequently, the Fusion Center and JTTF should be separated, but effective intelligence sharing and secure communication channels between them should be established.

References

Department of Homeland Security. (2019). Strategic framework for countering terrorism and targeted violence. Web.

Fisher, D. G. (2017). Public communication as counter-terrorism: An examination of zero-sum counter terrorism assumptions (Publication No. 18165) [PhD dissertation, University of Maryland]. DRUM Digital Repository.

Homeland Security. (2016). Fusion centers and joint terrorism task forces. Web.

Homeland Security. (2019). National terrorism advisory system. Web.

Ingram, J. H. (2018). Terrorism prevention in the United States: A policy framework for filling the CVE void. Program on Extremism Policy. Web.

Parker, D., Pearce, J., Lindekilde, L., & Rogers, M. (2017). Challenges for effective counterterrorism communication: Practitioner insights and policy implications for preventing radicalization, disrupting attack planning, and mitigating terrorist attacks. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 42(3), 264-291. Web.

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