A U.S. Senate report criticized oversight of a Philadelphia project that has spent roughly $2.3 million in federal money since 2006, but the counterterrorism center has barely gotten launched, according to an article from the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The report asserts that as of August, the “fusion center” – intended as an intelligence-sharing crossroads for city, state, federal and port officials from around the region – still didn’t exist, the article says.
At one point, state officials blocked federal aid for the center because of a request for construction money, a prohibited use, the report found. The bipartisan report, released by Senators Carl Levin (D,Mich.) and Tom Coburn (R, Okla.), the top members of the Homeland Security Committee’s investigations subcommittee, says that Homeland Security’s “insistence on listing fusion centers with no physical presence is not only puzzling, but raises questions about its entire assessment process.
City officials, however, say that a small center is operating and that plans to build a regional intelligence center were back on track, particularly since the Philadelphia Police Department recently took over the project, the Inquirer article says.
The building of the center is about a year behind schedule, but Tom Elsasser, a legislative assistant to Everett Gillison, deputy mayor for public safety and Mayor Nutter’s chief of staff, says that no money has been spent improperly.
The city plans to build the $20 million center at the old Army Quartermaster Corps site at 20th Street and Oregon Avenue in South Philadelphia. Half of the funding would come from the federal government and half locally.
Currently, the article says, there is only a small office staffed 12 hours a day by one federal agent and 12 to 20 officers from the city’s Homeland Security department. The rest of the city’s Homeland Security team is elsewhere.
The goal of the site is to foster intelligence-sharing throughout the region and among various levels of government. It would be run by the Philadelphia police.
The state blocked funding in 2011 and is still awaiting a final lease before it can forward more federal money, the article says.