Academic journal article Homeland Security Affairs

The Functional Desks as Collaborative Mechanisms in the Michigan Intelligence Operations Center

Academic journal article Homeland Security Affairs

The Functional Desks as Collaborative Mechanisms in the Michigan Intelligence Operations Center

Article excerpt


The report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the 9/11 Commission Report ) strongly recommended increased sharing of information between agencies. The recommendations included cooperative relationships and the integration of intelligence functions; specifically that "information be shared horizontally, across new networks that transcend individual agencies." 1 The recommendations signify a sharp schism from the traditional Cold War norm where "each agency concentrated on its specialized mission, acquiring its own information and then sharing it via, formal, finished reports." 2

Because of its complexity and asymmetry, the war on terror exposes the limitations of each governmental agency to acquire the necessary information and carry out its mandated mission. In this time of federal deficits and budgetary cuts, perhaps the foremost challenge of the government is the appropriation of scarce resources. These resources, such as materials, money, support services, and technological knowledge, are crucial for the national, state, and local governments to address the challenges of terrorism.

The U.S. Intelligence Reform and Terrorism PreventionAct of 20043 emphasizes the prevention of terrorism through the sharing of information, and the information-sharing environment formalizes the establishment of state fusion centers. In Michigan's fusion center - the Michigan Intelligence Operations Center (MIOC) - functional desks have been established or proposed. These desks have been created not just because of the pressures of sharing crucial agency resources. In view of the need to manage the uncertainty of threats and potential terrorist attacks, the creation of these desks addresses the recent need of uniting statewide information sharing among local, state, and federal agencies and private sector organizations. This activity facilitates the collection, analysis, and dissemination of critical information 4 relevant not just to detecting potential threats but also to the whole gamut of activities for addressing terrorism.

This paper discusses the ongoing stated goal of information sharing amongst the Michigan homeland security community by uniting statewide efforts through the functional desks in the state's fusion center. The first section discusses the elements of collaboration that encourage agencies to work together in the MIOC. Descriptions of three functional desks in the MIOC - Critical Infrastructure/Key Resources, Environmental Risk, and Border Security - are then presented. The concluding section provides observations on the functional desks as a viable collaborative mechanism for information sharing to address the threat of terrorism.

Rationale for Engaging in Collaboration

The challenge facing every state is to develop its state fusion center using a systematic process that translates national strategy and guidelines into state and local policies that will drive the operations of the fusion center. The ability to strategize nationally, plan regionally, and respond locally is the challenge facing all homeland security projects. National strategy, as it has evolved, has declared that fusion centers should be all-hazard, all-crimes and terrorism-driven. It also states that the development of fusion centers is a collaborative effort between law enforcement, public safety agencies, and the private sector.

The literature on collaboration states that organizations collaborate because of the mutual benefit in achieving their organizational missions and goals. Whatever the factors(such as environmental conditions and reduced resources) that may compel organizations to collaborate, collaboration occurs when one organization simply has resources and expertise that another organization and sector needs or could benefit from (and vice versa). Therefore, we would submit that functional desks in the state's fusion center are collaborative systems, albeit writ small, for working together and sharing resources to achieve a common organizational mission. …

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