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Fighting terrorism in Georgia

POSTED: December 31, 2016 9:00 a.m.

How we’re fighting terrorism

The Georgia Information Sharing and Analysis Center (GISAC) is one of the State’s key resources in combating terrorism as well as supporting all law enforcement agencies across the state.  GISAC was created to fix many of the problems law enforcement agencies discovered in the wake of the September 11 attacks, primarily communication obstacles.

 

Gisac in detail

GISAC’s mission has evolved over time. GISAC was created to eliminate the information sharing issues between federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies that were discovered after September 11, 2001.  This center is the state’s U.S. Department of Homeland Security Center recognized fusion center.

The idea of a fusion center is to enhance information sharing between all levels of law enforcement agencies. The program brings together multiple agencies and allows them to communicate and share relevant information efficiently.  GISAC was created by executive order and was attached to the Georgia Department of Homeland Security until 2010 when it was moved to the GBI. Over the lifetime of its existence, it has been the state level task force charged with homeland security, anti-terrorism, and counter-terrorism operations. 

 

Many roles for GISAC

Since its move to the GBI, GISAC has become the all-crimes intelligence unit for the State and participates in a number of supportive roles for Georgia law enforcement agencies. GISAC also coordinates Georgia’s Emergency Alert Systems such as Levi’s call or the AMBER alert for abductions of children younger than 17. Other additional duties include the Child Abduction Response Team, which is a collaborative team trained and prepared to respond to missing/endangered or abducted children.  GISAC now serves as the investigative arm of the Sexual Offender Review Board by collecting information on sex offenders and their crimes for the Board’s review. The Georgia Missing Children’s Center, which acts as the central repository of information on missing children in Georgia, is also housed within GISAC.

 

Collaboration — the best protection

While GISAC is under the supervision of the GBI, it is made up of personnel from many agencies. GISAC partners include: the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency, Georgia State Patrol, United States Department of Homeland Security, Georgia Technology Authority, Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, Georgia Sheriff’s Association, Georgia Fire Services, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Georgia Department of Public Health, Georgia Department of Corrections, Homeland Security Investigations (ICE), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

One of the features that has made GISAC so successful is the partnership it enjoys with the FBI.  GISAC is one of only a handful of fusion centers co-located with the FBI which allows for an important collaborative partnership between the two groups.  GISAC Agents and analysts actually sit on the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force and Intelligence Branch which allows for a daily sharing of information.  GISAC also prides itself on partnering with private entities. In this age of soft targets, working with private companies to report any suspicious activity they see can help stop plots before they begin.

 

Where does GISAC’S funding come from?

Due to its many partnerships, GISAC’s funding comes from multiple sources. Based on the FY2015 Budget, GISAC received 63 percent ($1,824,932) of its funding from the state, 28 percent ($819,333) from the Department of Homeland Security, 8 percent ($219,096) from the Department of Justice, and 1 percent ($26,600) from Local Agencies for a total of $2,889,961. The Center’s budget is largely centered on its employees, with personnel costs taking up almost 80 percent of its budget.

 

Senate support

In the 2016 session, the Senate made GISAC funding a priority.  SB 416, which passed both the Senate and House unanimously, codified GISAC as a part of the GBI.  Despite the importance of the Center, it still was only previously backed up by executive order. Besides adding a sense of permanence to GISAC, the Senate also prioritized adding additional analysts for the Center in the FY2017 budget.  Funds were added for four new analysts for GISAC, two within GBI and two within GEMA to ensure the Center continues to be able to carry out its many missions.

When it comes to programs whose impacts outweigh their funding, GISAC is one that immediately comes to mind.  While it’s a small piece of the state’s public safety footprint, GISAC helps all of those different agencies accomplish their missions. Whether it’s providing support to stings for sexual predators or uncovering terrorist plots, GISAC has an important role to play.  The Senate is proud of making GISAC a priority and will continue to monitor GISAC’s budget needs.

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