A Gap Realized, An Opportunity to Improve: Prioritizing Intelligence, Investigations & Information Sharing in Preparedness Efforts
Recently I had the opportunity to spearhead a study alongside colleagues from the All-Hazards Incident Management Teams Association’s (AHIMTA) Intelligence and Investigations Working Group. As part of our comprehensive initial survey, we posed a myriad of questions about understanding intelligence and investigations activities within incident management concepts – from Unified Command to Incident Management Teams (IMTs), Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs), and intelligence operations centers.
The initial findings of this survey were clear: we must find ways to further strengthen intelligence and investigation capabilities. Although updated planning and training were critical needs going into the study, the results highlighted that the ability to operationalize intelligence gathering, investigations, and information sharing must be prioritized. For example, when answering a question on “have you ever participated in an intelligence and investigations focused exercise?”, more than half of the respondents responded in the negative, while a combined 87% of them said that there were “not enough” or “barely enough” opportunities to exercise intelligence, investigations, and information sharing capabilities.
87% of respondents answered that there were “not enough” and/or “barely enough” opportunities to exercise intelligence and investigation capabilities.
Recently the United States Department of Homeland Security has reprioritized intelligence and information sharing (along with cybersecurity, soft targets and crowded places, domestic violent extremism and emerging threats) in its latest round of preparedness grants, totaling nearly $1.87 billion. Accordingly, as jurisdictions and urban areas plan their next year of training and exercises, they should consider focusing energy on intelligence, investigations, and information sharing activities such as Hunter Seeker, an innovative and dynamic exercise for intelligence and investigation-oriented organizations, public safety agencies, and their public and private sector partners.
HUNTER SEEKER GOES TO THE NEXT LEVEL OF EXERCISING INTELLIGENCE, INVESTIGATIONS, AND INFORMATION SHARING CAPABILITIES
Recently, Hagerty had an opportunity to facilitate the latest round of Hunter Seeker in the heart of the Midwest: Ohio and Indiana. Over a period of four days (and one week prior to the largest public safety exercise in the State of Ohio), the Hunter Seeker exercise connected public safety agencies, state government departments, and private sector partners in an elaborate game where they had the ability to thwart a critical incident from taking place. Hunter Seeker is not your average discussion-based counterterrorism awareness workshop. By design, Hunter Seeker is dynamic and tailorable; allowing participating agencies to shift the exercise’s outcome due to address known gaps with an innovative “choose your own adventure” structure.
Whether strengthening your jurisdiction’s understanding of intelligence and investigations integration during a critical incident, or a longer-term interdiction and disruption operation, Hunter Seeker offers participating agencies a learning experience that keeps individuals engaged and bolsters priority capabilities.
CHARTING YOUR OWN COURSE: A SAMPLE HUNTER SEEKER EXERCISE
To demonstrate how Hunter Seeker goes beyond in strengthening intelligence and information sharing capabilities, Hagerty’s exercise designers have mocked up a three-day Hunter Seeker exercise. Unlike most exercises, Hunter Seeker is designed to span multiple days in order to play to the time it takes to collect information, distill actionable information into intelligence, and transform intelligence products into actionable activities –ranging from outreach campaigns and public information/warning to tactical interdiction operations.
The three-day exercise uses a scenario developed to focus on enhancing capabilities of local law enforcement investigators and special operations teams in countering terrorism.
Working with local public safety partners, Hunter Seeker exercise designers meld functional and operations-based activities in a sequence of no-fault learning experiences. Public safety agencies (across local, state, federal, tribal, and territorial jurisdictions), guide the build of Hunter Seeker by selecting objectives that validate, plans, policies, procedures, partnerships, and activities. Worried that you cannot take three days away from your daily operations? Not all participants may be involved in the entirety of the exercise; in fact, Hunter Seekers have been developed to overlay in a normal operating environment.
For the first day of a potential exercise, it is agreed that the exercise players will be introduced with characters and their exercise environment. In addition, day one of exercise play is identified as when to involve private sector partners in learning about suspicious activity reporting (SAR). Hagerty exercise designers have games developed to build these capabilities. Exercise play is kept functional in nature – for instance, there is no movement of actual personnel or equipment to address an issue. Simulated social and traditional media emerge the players into the exercise work.
Day One Activities of a Sample Hunter Seeker
During the second day of exercise play, stakeholders agree to use both functional and operations-based exercises to investigatory functions of fictitious characters in the scenario. Investigators and law enforcement personnel in the exercise environment work together to prep for counterterrorism activities. Except the fictitious suspects are tipped off that they may be watched. At the end of the game, simulators portraying suspects have an opportunity to identify potential participants.
Day Two Activities of a Sample Hunter Seeker
For the final day, stakeholders identify the need to fully operationalize the exercise by pivoting to a series of drills focused on tactical interdictions. For example, Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams and other public safety agencies participate in a series of 60-minute iterative drills to sustain basic concepts while building to addressing advanced challenges ranging from hostage situations to the suspects attempting to escape.
Day Three Activities of a Sample Hunter Seeker
Throughout all three days, a robust Simulation Cell is working against the actions being taken by participating players. Whether the scenario is focused on a criminal incident (like the sample provided), a fire investigation, an infectious disease, or a ransomware attack, Hunter Seeker is like no other exercise in its ability to provoke players in critical thinking and decision-making, all the while strengthening agency/jurisdiction-wide capabilities.
INTRODUCING THE UNIVERSAL ADVERSARY PROJECT
To support Hunter Seeker, Hagerty’s security and threat management team initiated the Universal Adversary Project, which develops hundreds of personas that background information to further streamline scenario play for participating agencies. From international terrorist organizations to transnational crime organizations, to domestic extremists; a cadre of fictitious individuals have been developed to support players being immersed in a realistic exercise environment – inundated with information, much of which is white noise, yet some of which is pertinent to preventing a critical incident from occurring.
HAGERTY CAN HELP
Are you ready to be challenged and learn ways to improve your Information Sharing Environment? Hagerty and its Hunter Seeker team can help.
David Schuld is a deputy director at Hagerty Consulting and created the Hunter Seeker program in 2018. He and his team have support numerous fusion centers and their local, state, federal, and private sector partners in the design and facilitation of intelligence, investigations, and information sharing preparedness activities. He recently spoke at the National Homeland Security Conference on how to design intelligence and information sharing exercises.