In a surprising move, Texas House and Senate budget negotiators agreed to wipe out funding for the Department of Public Safety's fusion center, part of a nationwide intelligence gathering initiative that has generated controversy, reports the Austin American-Statesman. If the House and Senate affirm the change, it could make Texas the first state to pull the rug from under one of the statewide fusion operations that began under a Department of Homeland Security offensive that has been criticized for wasting taxpayers' money.
“It's shocking to me,” said Ron Brooks, a former director of the San Francisco fusion center, now with a Washington D.C., consulting and lobbying group specializing in criminal intelligence issues. Despite their terrorism-focused origins, Brooks said the more than 70 fusion centers across the U.S. have evolved into “all-crime centers” to coordinate information sharing among local, state and federal agencies. Such information sharing provides “smart policing” of everything from street gangs to homicide investigations, Brooks said. He knows of no other state that has eliminated funds for a statewide center. A factor in the decision, was a report by a U.S. Senate investigative subcommittee that lambasted the fusion centers for “irrelevant, useless or inappropriate” intelligence gathering and wasteful spending on private contractors, while doing little to keep the country safer.