Managing Joint Terrorism Task Force Resources

By Casey, James | The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, November 2004 | Go to article overview

Managing Joint Terrorism Task Force Resources


Casey, James, The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin


In a post-September 11 world, successful management of a joint terrorism task force (JTTF) may represent one of the most important aspects of law enforcement's unified war on terrorism. The September 11 attacks placed a high profile on FBI-sponsored JTTFs across the nation and have presented unique management issues for the FBI and participating agencies of the task forces. Organizational and strategic analysis of the threats posed by international and domestic terrorism can help law enforcement executives at all levels develop management structures and protocols for successfully operating the nation's JTTFs, proving mutually beneficial to the FBI, participating law enforcement agencies, and the country's national security effort.

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History

Many of the FBI's task forces dealing with significant crime problems grew out of the agency's close working relationship with the New York City Police Department (NYPD). Both organizations have a history of innovative approaches to law enforcement and highly competent investigators willing to try new concepts. The first formal FBI task force, the Bank Robbery Task Force, primarily was staffed with FBI special agents and NYPD detectives, followed closely by participation from a host of other federal, state, and local law enforcement partners. The task force concept flourished, and, by the mid-1980s, many other formalized FBI-sponsored task forces existed, dealing with such issues as fugitives, drugs, and, eventually, terrorism. The joint task force concept is not new nor did the FBI develop it. Many levels of law enforcement successfully have used the concept for years to handle specific crime problems. All FBI-sponsored task forces, however, have two common elements that make them unique: 1) written memorandums of understanding (MOUs) between participating law enforcement agencies and 2) FBI funding to pay for participating state and local departments' expenses, such as officer overtime, vehicles, gas, cell phones, and related office costs.

Prior to September 11, the United States had 35 formal JTTFs. Shortly after the attacks, FBI Director Robert Mueller instructed all FBI field offices to immediately establish formal terrorism task forces. Today, the FBI has a JTTF in each of its 56 field offices, as well as 10 stand-alone, formalized JTTFs in its largest resident agencies. (1) Many other field offices sponsor JTTF annexes in small- to medium-sized resident agencies, but these entities formally are attached to the respective field office. Agents and officers may reside physically in a smaller resident agency but work for the field office's JTTF. Also, shortly after September 11, Attorney General John Ashcroft ordered the U.S. Attorneys' Offices (USAO) to establish antiterrorism task forces (ATTF). The mandate and mission of the ATTFs initially were unclear to many individuals in the law enforcement community, as well as to some of the USAOs, who thought that a duplication of effort at the federal law enforcement level would occur and confuse JTTF and ATTF participants. In practice, the ATTFs have evolved into senior-level working groups with scheduled policy and intelligence briefings, while the JTTFs have remained the day-to-day operational and investigative components of the law enforcement community.

Structure

Proper staffing of the task force is critical. A supervisory special agent (SSA) accomplished in counterterrorism investigations oversees the daily operations of the task force. A basic JTTF consists of a group of FBI special agents experienced in international and domestic terrorism investigations combined with other federal, state, and local law enforcement officers who bring a variety of skills to the task force environment. A complex mix of available resources in each jurisdiction and the historic working relationships these agencies enjoyed prior to the establishment of the task force present subtle differences within each JTTF, particularly in major U. …

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