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FACT SHEET:  Homeland Security Operations Center (HSOC)


The Homeland Security Operations Center (HSOC) serves as the nation?s nerve center for information sharing and domestic incident management?dramatically increasing the vertical coordination between federal, state, territorial, tribal, local, and private sector partners.  The HSOC collects and fuses information from a variety of sources everyday to help deter, detect, and prevent terrorist acts.  Operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, the HSOC provides real-time situational awareness and monitoring of the homeland, coordinates incidents and response activities, and, in conjunction with the DHS Office of Information Analysis, issues advisories and bulletins concerning threats to homeland security, as well as specific protective measures. Information on domestic incident management is shared with Emergency Operations Centers at all levels through the Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN).


HSOC Structure

The HSOC represents over 35 agencies ranging from state and local law enforcement to federal intelligence agencies.  Information is shared and fused on a daily basis by the two halves of the HSOC that are referred to as the ?Intelligence Side? and the ?Law Enforcement Side.?  Each half is identical and functions in tandem with the other but requires a different level of clearance to access information.  The ?Intelligence Side? focuses on pieces of highly classified intelligence and how the information contributes to the current threat picture for any given area.  The ?Law Enforcement Side? is dedicated to tracking the different enforcement activities across the country that may have a terrorist nexus.  The two pieces fused together create a real-time snap shot of the nation?s threat environment at any moment. (See HSOC Watchstanders below for list of partners.)


HSOC Information Sharing Tools

>> Homeland Security Information Network.  The HSOC communicates in real-time to its partners by utilizing the Homeland Security Information Network?s (HSIN) internet-based counterterrorism communications tool, supplying information to all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and more than 50 major urban areas.  


  • Threat information is exchanged with state and local partners at the Sensitive-but-Unclassified level (SBU).  Future program expansion will include linking additional cities and counties, communication capabilities at the classified SECRET level, and increasing the involvement and integration of the private sector.
  • The system is encrypted using a secure network that includes a suite of applications including mapping and imaging capabilities.
  • System participants include governors, mayors, Homeland Security Advisors, state National Guard offices, Emergency Operations Centers, First Responders and Public Safety departments, and other key homeland security partners.  Each receives training to participate in the information sharing network to combat terrorism and increase anti-terrorism situational awareness.


 >>HSIN-Critical Infrastructure (CI).  The HSIN-CI was launched last month and was specially designed to communicate real-time information to critical infrastructure owners and operators ? 80 percent of whom are part of the private sector.  HSIN?CI has the capacity to send alerts and notifications to the private sector at a rate of:


  • 10,000 simultaneous outbound voice calls per minute
  • 30,000 inbound simultaneous calls (hot line scenario)
  • 3,000 outbound simultaneous faxes
  • 5,000 outbound simultaneous Internet e-mail
  • Immediate Internet website content changes made


>>Dissemination Capabilities.  The HSOC regularly disseminates domestic terrorism-related information generated by the Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate, known as ?products? to federal, state, and local governments, as well as private-sector organizations and international partners.  Threat products come in two forms:


  • Homeland Security Threat Advisories are the result of information analysis and contain actionable information about an incident involving, or a threat targeting, critical national networks, infrastructures, or key assets.  They often relay newly developed procedures that, when implemented, significantly improve security and protection.  Advisories also often suggest a change in readiness posture, protective actions, or response.    
  • Homeland Security Information Bulletins are infrastructure protection products that communicate information of interest to the nation?s critical infrastructures that do not meet the timeliness, specificity, or significance thresholds of warning messages.  Such information may include statistical reports, periodic summaries, incident response or reporting guidelines, common vulnerabilities and patches, and configuration standards or tools.


>>Homeland Security Advisory System.  On March 11, 2002, President Bush unveiled the Homeland Security Advisory System (HSAS) as a tool to improve coordination and communication among all levels of government, the private sector, and the American public in the fight against terrorism.  The Advisory System not only identifies the Threat Condition, but also outlines protective measures that can be taken by our partners.  The federal government, states, and the private sector each have a set of plans and protective measures that are implemented as the Threat Condition is raised or lowered, thus reducing our vulnerability to attack.  The HSOC is the distributor of the recommended security measures to our state and local partners when the threat level is raised or lowered.


HSOC Operational Capabilities

>> Vulnerability Situational Awareness. The HSOC monitors vulnerabilities and compares them against threats, providing a centralized, real-time flow of information between homeland security partners.  This data collected from across the country is then fused into a master template which allows the HSOC to provide a visual picture of the nation?s current threat status. The HSOC has the capability to:


  • Perform initial (first phase) assessment of the information to gauge the terrorist nexus
  • Track operational actions taking place across the country in response to the intelligence information
  • Disseminate notifications and alerts about the information and any decisions made


 >>Imagery Capability.  Now, as information is shared across agencies, HSOC staff can apply imagery capability by cross-referencing informational data against geospatial data that can then pinpoint an image down to an exact location.  Satellite technology is able to transmit pictures of the site in question directly into the HSOC.  This type of geographic data can then be stored to create a library of images that can be mapped against future threats and shared with our state and local partners.


  • The ?current operational picture? can be viewed using the geographical and mapping capabilities of 16 flat panel fifty-inch screens to monitor threat environment in real time
  • Access to a significant portion of the District of Columbia?s traffic cameras for real-time view of various transportation hubs


>>Senior Level Communication. The HSOC is in constant communication with the White House, acting as the situational awareness conduit for the White House Situation Room by providing information needed to make decisions and define courses of action.


HSOC Incident Management Role

>>Interagency Incident Management Group (IIMG).  The IIMG is a headquarters-level group comprised of senior representatives from DHS components, other federal departments and agencies, and non-governmental organizations.  The IIMG provides strategic situational awareness, synthesizes key intelligence and operational information, frames operational courses of action and policy recommendations, anticipates evolving requirements, and provides decision support to the Secretary of Homeland Security and other national authorities during periods of elevated alert and national domestic incidents.

>>Quick Response.  During incidents such as Hurricane Isabel, the December 2003 Orange Alert, and the black-out in New York City, the IIMG was ?stood-up? in less than 90 minutes and hosted Assistant Secretary-level members of the represented agencies to provide strategic leadership. 


HSOC Watchstanders

The HSOC is home to a variety of agency, state, and local partners that provide constant watch for the safety of our nation.  Receiving hundreds of calls, they address about 22 incidents or cases per day.  The agencies represented include:

Federal Bureau of Investigation

United States Coast Guard

Postal Inspection Service

Central Intelligence Agency

United States Secret Service

DC Metropolitan Police Department

Defense Intelligence Agency

Federal Protective Service

New York Police Department

National Security Agency

Customs and Border Protection

Los Angeles Police Department

Immigration Customs Enforcement

Department of Energy

Environmental Protection Agency

Drug Enforcement Agency

Department of Interior (US Park Police)

Federal Air Marshal Service

Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms

Department of Defense

Department of State

Department of Transportation

Department of Veterans Affairs

National Capitol Region

Transportation Security Administration

National Geospatial Intelligence Agency

Department of Health and Human Services

Federal Emergency Management Agency

National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration

Public Affairs (DHS)

State and Local Coordination Office

Science and Technology Directorate

Geo-spatial Mapping Office

Information Analysis Office

Infrastructure Protection Office