I’ve seen the future of security and its name is Rock and Fusion is a poor mashing of Jon Landau’s 1974 writing, “I’ve seen the future of rock and roll and its name is Bruce Springsteen” but it is the most sincere response I had while visiting the New Jersey Regional Operations Intelligence Center (The Rock) in West Trenton. I wasn’t going to go, really. What could be so new, so different at this ops center from the others I had visited?
Jack Jarmon at and I met for coffee and he asked, “Have you seen it yet?” and was incredulous I had not. A few weeks later, Dan Dunkel (guru of all things IT) gave me a disappointed look when I confessed that visiting the Rock had not been on my 1,000 Places to Visit Before I Die list.
And so, I go (along with Sinatra, Springsteen and Meryl Streep).
What Is It?The Regional Operations Intelligence Center was identified as a “must have” in 1999 when then Governor Christine Whitman stood ankle-deep in water during Hurricane Floyd in the former emergency operations center in an “All’s Well. Be Calm,” –Kevin-Bacon-in-Animal-House kind of way. The state economy was strong and budget money was approved for a new EOC. During the planning, 9/11 happened and that changed thinking dramatically. Information sharing (fusion) became a key learning from the 9/11 Commission and the thought of a big investment in an EOC that may only be needed 5-7 days a year for weather related events seemed wasteful.
Thus, the Fusion Center was incorporated into the EOC and New Jersey’s state-of-the-art, self-sufficient, $27 million, 55,000 square feet (and growing) Regional Operations Intelligence Center, was conceived, built and then opened on October 27, 2006. Today it runs 24/7/365.
Of course, the technology is awe-inspiring. This is the ultimate security sandbox for you to play in. Watch Operations monitors weather, crime, threats, hazards, governor’s car wrecks – you name it. The high tech situation room looks over a wall of monitors and over 100 workstations, each reserved for a representative from various agencies. And the powerful analytic technology brings together data that investigators were never before able to analyze so centrally or quickly.
But anyone can buy technology. More exciting is the Rock’s spirit of cooperation and strong leadership. Since 9/11, government agencies have worked to abandon the us vs. them thinking that existed between organizations. While the Rock is funded by New Jersey, the bulk of the workforce is made up of members from non-New Jersey entities; FBI, DHS, Philadelphia PD, Maritime Security Initiative, U.S. Immigration, Counter-Terrorism, CeaseFire and more.
These organizations are working together effectively and efficiently to share information and analyze crimes. As you know, this cannot possibly succeed, right? Wrong.
It’s the leadership and attitude of Richard Kelly, director of the Rock, that makes it work. It is Kelly’s sense of purpose and modesty that quickly and quietly tells you to check your ego at the door. “We are all on Team America” says Kelly, “and we are partnering and working across organizations to find best practices.”
Kelly served with the FBI for 23 years and retired as the Assistant Special Agent in Charge for Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence in the Newark Field Office. His expertise includes ten years in the military, state and county levels. He received the U.S. Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service in 2005, the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a Department of Justice employee.
With Kelly’s leadership, two keys drive the Rock’s focus on prevention and excellence: Process and Communication.
Process: Think of the Rock as a process manufacturing facility for disparate bits of data from law enforcement agencies around the world. The Rock is set up to collect, analyze, share and act on information.
Communication: The analyses are matriced within and outside the Rock. Their matrix moves information up, down and sideways. While a single data point may be meaningless on its own, combined with other data, analyzed and shared, its power for preventing crime vs. responding to events becomes enormous.
For example, a drug arrest may be viewed as a local crime by a suburban police department. But through the Rock, this information will make its way to the FBI and potentially be identified as a source for terror funding. At the same time, this information prevents one law enforcement agency from potentially interfering in another agency’s ongoing investigation.
Why Is It Important?Best practices are created and incidents are prevented. “We are driving with one eye on the road and one eye in the rear-view mirror,” notes Kelly. The Rock is not only an emergency and intelligence operations center for current events, it is the ultimate laboratory for uniting technology and people to predict and prevent loss due to natural, accidental or criminal activity. The Rock and Director Kelly are making an impact today.
The greater value will be realized through the continuous improvement in best practices and the increased public safety levels that result.
Enlightened, impressed and surprised, I leave the Rock vowing to be quicker the next time my colleagues point me toward the future.