CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A former leader with the West Virginia Fusion Center believes a recent demonstration of the network’s capabilities in the Far East will pay dividends toward U.S. security.
Thom Kirk, Deputy Secretary of West Virginia’s Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety recently returned from a trip to Indonesia. Kirk, who formerly headed up the Fusion Center,was recruited by the U.S. Military for the trip due to that experience. He was tasked with demonstrating to the island nation, and its neighbors, the power of sharing information. The area in the Pacific is made up of more than 1,300 separate island nations–many of them recently at war with one another. The isolation, according to Kirk, is allowing bad guys to operate undetected and unimpeded in the region.
“None of them really speak to each other when it comes to sharing intelligence and information,” said Kirk. “My role was to go over and get them to understand the advantage of sharing information back and forth across the islands.”
The exercise Kirk and his team settled on for a demonstration was protection of the region’s fishing industry. Fishing in Indonesia and all of the island nations is the economic lifeblood. Piracy and illegal fishing are posing huge risks to the fisheries in that part of the world. Kirk’s team put together an Indonesian Fusion Network for the purpose of the demonstration to share information on possible illegal activity. It worked better than they could have hoped.
“Within three days they had stopped a ship that three countries had information on but never shared,” Kirk explained. “On this ship they found tons of methamphetamine, about 50 people being smuggled through human trafficking, and loads and loads of counterfeit products likes purses.”
The exercise successfully demonstrated the power of sharing intel. Kirk said ultimately helping the Indonesian islands to establish their own fusion network will lead to a sharing of intel with U.S. authorities.
“We’d like to establish communications so that we can begin to intercept things way before they get to our coast,” said Kirk. “We try to disrupt it by buying it 10 and 100 dollars at a time, when you stop an entire ship load before it gets here, that’s a big interest to safety and security here in the United States.”