The Senate released an investigative report on Wednesday sharply criticizing anti-terrorism facilities set up throughout the country after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to coordinate federal, state, and local intelligence. As the Project On Government Oversight detailed yesterday, the report found that these “fusion centers,” which have cost the federal government anywhere from $289 million to $1.4 billion total (incredibly, the government does not have a more exact figure), are producing very little useful terrorism-related intelligence and are committing widespread violations of citizens’ civil liberties.
But there’s another potential problem with fusion centers that the report did not address.
The centers rely on private contractors, and it isn’t clear that contractors should be playing such a big role in this sensitive work.
Federal contracting law lists “the direction and control of intelligence and counter-intelligence operations” as an inherently governmental function—in other words, a function that must be performed by a government employee.
The Senate report says that certain aspects of the program rely on contractors to the extent that contractor employees sometimes outnumber government employees and that some contractor employees are “under-trained or poor performers.”