Will the DVIC Make Our City and Country Safer? Will it Ever Open?

Mr. Fox

The Delaware Valley Intelligence Center (DVIC) has been six years and $20M in the making. When it (hopefully) opens near 20th & Johnston this February (it was supposed to open years ago, though exactly when is unclear), it will house 130 employees and serve as an anti-terrorism hub. Or, that’s at least the concept.

The building is in this complex

It’s supposed to serve as a Fusion Center where members of local, state and federal agencies operate and assist one another in the same building; a hub for a network of agencies and research.

But this fall, a Senate subcommittee deemed the facility a waste of money after an inspector arrived at the site to inspect the building only to find there was nothing to inspect, according to Newsworks.

On the plus side, we’re not the only city in the nation where this Fusion Center is perceived as a waste. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimates that it has spent somewhere between $289 million and $1.4 billion in public funds to support state and local fusion centers since 2003, according to a Senate subcommittee report. The committee wondered just how much value the 70 fusion centers are providing to federal counterterrorism efforts.

Rendering of the building
A peek inside. Renderings come from the LR Kimball Blog.

It gets better. The investigation found that DHS intelligence officers assigned to state and local fusion centers produced intelligence of “uneven quality – oftentimes shoddy, rarely timely, sometimes endangering citizens’ civil liberties and Privacy Act protections, occasionally taken from already-published public sources, and more often than not unrelated to terrorism.” Read here to find some more Fusion flak.

About six years ago, Homeland Security designated $11M for the project in Philadelphia. The City pledged an additional $9M of its own.Though the inspector came up with nothing in the fall, construction was underway last month when Mayor Nutter toured the facilities on December 20th. When it opens this winter, the City will split the $2M annual operating costs with the federal government as long as federal grant funding remains available. Whether that annual money, or the upfront money, are worth it will be determined in the coming years. Senator Tom Coburn, the ranking Subcommittee member who initiated the investigation had this to say:

“It’s troubling that the very ‘fusion’ centers that were designed to share information in a post-9/11 world have become part of the problem. Instead of strengthening our counterterrorism efforts, they have too often wasted money and stepped on Americans’ civil liberties.”

Will it just be more of the same in Philly, or can we buck the trend?

--Lou Mancinelli