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Senate report blasts Philly anti-terror center; Philly blasts back

A new report from a U.S. Senate subcommittee blasts the Department of Homeland Security’s “fusion center” program. The report (embedded below) singles out Philadelphia, making it a poster child of the program’s dysfunction.

But city officials say the Senate has it all wrong.

The Delaware Valley Intelligence Center is supposed to be a coordinated hub of the region’s counterterrorism efforts.

More than $11 million in federal funding has been designated to DVIC since 2006.

And yet, congressional investigators say it doesn’t physically exist.

“No, that’s not the case at all,” said Tom Elsasser, a legislative aide with the Philadelphia Department of Public Safety. “It is a mischaracterization because it’s a reality and the construction is well under way.”

A temporary anti-terror office at 20th and Oregon has been operational for over a year, Elsasser says. And a permanent facility at the same site — 24/7 command center, roughly 130 employees — should be ready by early 2013.

“This is a reality,” Elsasser said. “It’s kind of a big deal for the city.”

But that doesn’t mean all the problems highlighted in the report are unfounded.

Glenn Cannon runs the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA). The federal dollars funding the project pass through PEMA.

Cannon says the Senate report is correct on one front: His agency raised a number of concerns with the project.

“What’s being [criticized] in the report occurred not on my watch, not on this governor’s watch and not on that mayor’s watch,” Cannon said.

The project was bungled early on, Cannon says. “I think the city got some bad advice.”

The Department of Homeland Security has called the fusion center program a centerpiece of the nation’s counterterrorism efforts.

The Senate report found them to be “useless.”

 

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10 3 12 PSI STAFF REPORT Re FUSION CENTERS (PDF) 10 3 12 PSI STAFF REPORT Re FUSION CENTERS (Text)

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