The United States faces an adaptive enemy, both at home and abroad, and attacks and plots over the past 15 years demonstrate that the threat to the country remains. These threats not only emanate from outside our borders, but also from within our communities. This environment demonstrates the increasingly critical role state and local partners play in supporting the sharing of threat information.
In response to information sharing failures that led to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the U.S. intelligence community (IC) fundamentally changed the manner in which it identifies and shares information about threats to our safety and security. Since 9/11, there has been a concerted effort by the IC to reach beyond the capabilities of the federal government to leverage the unique information and expertise resident with state and local first responders.
As individuals responsible for such threats are able to self-radicalize and don’t have to travel or communicate with individuals overseas, strong partnerships between the federal government and state and local partners are ever-more important in order to identify and warn about impending plots that could impact the homeland. State and local agencies are uniquely positioned to augment federal intelligence and investigative efforts by virtue of their presence in every community, their knowledge of local individuals and groups, and their ability to access and share local data.
DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) has been on the forefront of these efforts by serving as a primary conduit for sharing threat information with state and local partners. I&A is a member of the IC and is the only IC element statutorily charged with delivering intelligence to state and local partners, as well as developing intelligence from those partners for both DHS and the IC.
Additionally, I&A has closely collaborated with its federal partners—specifically the FBI—to support the maturation of the National Network of Fusion Centers and the execution of the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) Initiative (NSI). Both of these national-level efforts reflect a decentralized and collaborative approach to addressing the current and evolving threat environment.
In addition to supporting these locally driven initiatives, I&A has aggressively incorporated state and local expertise directly into the IC. One of the primary vehicles to do this has been via I&A’s Fellows Program.
The Fellows Program provides a unique opportunity for state and local partners to collaborate directly with DHS and the IC to ensure that threat information is most effectively shared between and across all levels of government. Fellows sit side by side and collaborate with their federal counterparts through participation in a variety of intelligence functions, including conducting joint analysis, production and dissemination of intelligence products, collection and reporting, and watch-listing efforts. These fellows:
- Represent and advocate for state and local information requirements to DHS and the IC
- Identify DHS and IC information that is of interest to state and local partners
- Educate DHS and IC partners on state and local mission requirements and provide awareness and understanding of the state and local role in counterterrorism efforts
- Gain practical experience and understanding of the relationship between homeland security, law enforcement and the IC
The Fellows Program provides three unique opportunities, tailored to the experiences, expertise and interests of the fellows:
- DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis: Fellows work alongside I&A personnel to facilitate collaboration among I&A, other DHS components and state and local partners to promote an understanding of threats to the homeland; collect intelligence pertinent to homeland security; and share information that can inform operational and strategic actions. Fellows identify a specialized area to focus on for their fellowship, such as border security, cybersecurity or homegrown violent extremism.
- Joint Counterterrorism Assessment Team: JCAT is a joint DHS, FBI and National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) program, hosted at NCTC. Fellows will work alongside analysts from NCTC, DHS and the FBI to research, produce and disseminate counterterrorism intelligence products. They provide a state and local perspective to federally coordinated, finished counterterrorism-intelligence products, and they ensure that terrorism-related information intended for state and local entities is presented in a usable format that is, to the extent possible, unclassified to facilitate further dissemination.
- Terrorist Screening Center: Fellows help enhance partnerships between the TSC and state and local partners to improve encounter-notification reporting and to facilitate TSC collaboration with state and local partners. Fellows review, support and provide recommendations on the encounter-reporting process between state and local partners and the TSC, support efforts to enhance watch-listing and screening database records and facilitate collaboration with the TSC to develop encounter analysis and assessments.
For information on the Fellows Program or application process, read DHS Office of I&A Fellows Program (PDF) or email the DHS.