Bacon reintroduces bipartisan proposal to build up DHS-fusion centers alliance

U.S. Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) on Jan. 11 reintroduced bipartisan legislation to enhance collaboration between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Network of Fusion Centers in efforts to detect, prevent and respond to criminal and terrorist activity.

“Our nation cannot afford gaps in information between local and federal agencies. We cannot allow information to not reach those that need it as a crisis develops,” Rep. Bacon said last week.

The DHS Field Engagement Accountability Act, H.R. 504, would require the DHS Secretary to develop a department-wide plan for engagement with the 79 fusion centers operating across the United States. Fusion centers, which are owned and maintained by state and local authorities with support from federal partners, analyze and share homeland security intelligence with law enforcement agencies and other homeland security stakeholders, according to DHS.

“Fusion centers facilitate information sharing and coordination between our country’s first responders and the federal government,” said Rep. Bacon. “My legislation ensures DHS increases its support to all fusion centers to fully leverage the capabilities in the department’s missions.”

Cosponsors of H.R. 504 include U.S. Reps. Michael McCaul (R-TX), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), John Katko (R-NY), and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA).

H.R 504 also would ensure metrics are in place to measure progress, including metrics that would hold accountable field personnel from the U.S. Office of Intelligence and Analysis for how they perform duties at the fusion centers, according to a summary provided by Rep. Bacon’s office.

Additionally, H.R. 504 would require additional training and improvements for the DHS classified and unclassified information sharing systems the department makes available to fusion centers, according to the summary.

Rep. Bacon originally introduced the same-named H.R. 5079 in February 2018, which garnered seven cosponsors, including Reps. McCaul, Fitzpatrick, and Katko.

“Last Congress, this critical legislation was passed in the House, but not considered by the full Senate,” the congressman explained. “I will continue working to get this legislation over the finish line.”

Speaking in support of the bill last year, Rep. McCaul, former chairman and now ranking member of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee, called fusion centers a “key element” of the country’s homeland security efforts because they strengthen partnerships at the local, state and federal levels.

“Rep. Bacon’s legislation will promote greater engagement between DHS components and fusion centers to ensure better coordination of vital counterterrorism information,” Rep. McCaul said.

The new H.R. 504 has been referred for consideration to the House Homeland Security Committee.