Hanscom ESC’s Intel Fusion Center a Success in Afghanistan
In Afghanistan, there are often overlaps between the people involved in narcotics trafficking, illegal weapons and terrorist activity. Drug lords aren’t always Taliban allies, but opium trafficking is a critical source of funds for the Taliban/al-Qaeda. The US Air Force is the lead service for counter-narcotics detection and monitoring, and supports the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for counter narcotics through Air Combat Command. Unfortunately, existing intelligence gathering and sharing capabilities in Afghanistan were limited, making it difficult to share data with U.S. and coalition partners, or strengthen relations with the local counter-narcotics police.
In late 2004, therefore, the 350th Electronic Systems Group at Hanscom Air Force Base began working with its small-business partner Cambridge Communication Systems to create the counter narcotics-terrorism Intelligence Fusion Center, a commercial off-the-shelf-based system designed to capture, share and disseminate counter narcotics-terrorism intelligence data. Information gathered by Global Positioning Systems, human intelligence and coalition partners furnish the IFC’s database, which is specially tailored for the counter narcotics/terrorism mission. “This contractor had a proven track record in this arena, and a small business, set-aside contract was the fastest way to get the capability to the field,” said Col. Steven Webb, 350th Electronic Systems Group commander.
Since its deployment, the system has been used in efforts that seized more than 45 tons of drugs (mostly opium) with a street value of more than $1 billion, and boosted the related arrest rate by 75%. The IFC has supported the identification and break up of narcotics and weapons smuggling rings operating within Afghanistan, but led by suspects from Nigeria, Thailand, Ivory Coast, Pakistan, Zambia and South Africa. Additionally, the system’s use in cooperation with the Afghan police produced more than 80 SIM cards (subscriber identity modules, a portable memory chip in cell phones)e. The cards, sent to the USA’s crypto specialists at the National Security Agency for exploitation, are currently providing the best leads for identifying and breaking up new smuggling rings outside of the country. See USAF Link article.