According to Narkevicius, intelligence sharing has improved, but standardized protocols continue to be a challenge.
"In the military, we have classified data that's marked confidential, secret, or top secret, that's controlled for our intelligence channels. The problem with sharing intel with law enforcement is that "law enforcement sensitive" doesn't really map to our classified scales, so we couldn't always distribute data," he says. "But now that they've put in the unified intelligence centers, the military has actually been sharing more of that data with law enforcement. The Border Patrol has access to sensors and things that previously were military-only, and we can get that data to the people who can actually respond to it. So that's been very beneficial."
To build on data collection techniques that have been utilized for years by local law enforcement, the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative provides another clearinghouse for reporting and sharing information about suspicious activities by people within the United States.
Finding the Money
Law enforcement has traditionally relied on a hierarchical availability of funding for its activities. If the local government did not provide funding, limited resources may have been available at the state or federal levels. In the post-9/11 era, law enforcement agencies at all levels have learned to navigate the vast ocean of funding possibilities made possible by federal and state legislation.
Through the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a number of programs have been developed during the past decade to funnel much-needed federal money to state and local agencies. Billions of dollars have been provided to law enforcement agencies through programs with names like the State Homeland Security Program, the Urban Areas Security Initiative, the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program, and the Port Security Grant Program. While such funding has availed agencies the means to develop homeland security capabilities, dozens of other funding opportunities have also allowed for the procurements of specialized equipment, tactical and anti-terrorism training, enhanced local and regional SWAT teams, enhanced border control efforts, improved protection of transit systems, improved crisis response and emergency assistance, enhanced cybersecurity systems, and bolstered community policing programs. The sheer volume of grant opportunities available is dizzying.
In order to understand and respond to the influx of grants, agencies have had to develop expertise in not only grant proposal writing and submission, but in long-term reporting and management of the grants they receive.
Sid Heal, nationally recognized weapons expert and a retired commander from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, recalls the influx of counter-terrorism and homeland security funds in the early years following 9/11.
"Things that we'd been wanting for years all of a sudden became available," Heal says. "Things that were literally science fiction to us-in many cases, things that were already being used by the military-all of a sudden had a market in law enforcement because we had grant money to buy them."
The current trend in federal granting for homeland security has been to provide smaller grants for more focused purposes. As a result, agencies may have a more difficult time finding the right grant opportunity to meet their needs. Heal believes that law enforcement agencies will find a way around this problem.
"One of the byproducts that we see coming down the line here is that a lot of this stuff that was bought up by the tens of thousands will be military surplus in a year or two, and we'll be able to get them for less," Heal adds. "So even departments that didn't have a lot of money will be able to get things they'd only dreamed about."
Armed with specialized tools with which to fight terrorism, law enforcement agencies have had to develop equally specialized expertise in the use and training of this enhanced equipment. From biometric monitoring used at airports and ports of entry to ground- and air-based sensors used by border patrols, law enforcement personnel have unprecedented opportunities to engage in advanced training.
Working Hand in Hand
Another change in law enforcement post 9/11 is that agencies are more willing to develop regional mutual aid programs. Neighboring local agencies that had previously complained about the lack of coordination when responding to crimes at their jurisdictional borders have since realized the need for greater communication and coordination in dealing with potential terrorist acts.
Heal explains that perhaps the biggest challenge in bringing disparate agencies together has been the evolution of the National Incident Management System. "There's roughly 17,800 local law enforcement agencies in the United States. Every single one of them is autonomous. That means they can buy whatever they want to buy and use it in whatever manner. There are no standards, and in many cases there are not a lot of protocols, so you can be right next door to a neighboring jurisdiction and not be able to talk to them. The ideal from the federal government has been [to develop] patches and bridges and ways that allow everybody to do their own thing and simply be able to connect them as we need them," he says.
To facilitate the collection, analysis, and dissemination of information among agencies, DHS established a series of regional fusion centers. Typically operated by state agencies with support from local and federal personnel, each agency brings its own areas of expertise to the table to share with regional partners. Fusion centers have the added advantage of targeting terrorist threats that are specific to that region. There are now more than 70 fusion centers located in every state across the nation.
It has taken every bit of the past decade to pull all of the nation's law enforcement resources together in its fight against terrorism. The good intentions of Congress, the White House, the Department of Homeland Security, and other federal agencies during the early years following 9/11 were compromised by indecision and the enormity of the task at hand. After several years of dedicated work by countless individuals and organizations, the promise of a unified law enforcement approach to counter-terrorism is starting to take shape.
The success of domestic and international law enforcement partnerships to foil at least 39 terror plots since 9/11 is one indicator that things are moving in the right direction, but much work remains to be done.