After a controversial, seven-year development process, an intelligence-sharing center had its official ribbon-cutting ceremony in South Philadelphia on Friday, six months after it opened.
The Delaware Valley Intelligence Center - a $20 million "fusion center" jointly funded by the city and federal government - supports Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware.
The center serves as a focal point for information analysis among local, state and federal governments in situations ranging from severe weather to terrorist threats.
Of the $20 million cost, federal grants paid $10.6 million and the city paid the rest. The city and federal government will split the $2 million annual operating expenses.
The center was featured in an Oct. 3, 2012, report by the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. The lengthy report criticized the quality of fusion-center intelligence and oversight of federal spending.
The report targeted the Philadelphia facility as an example of inadequate FEMA oversight and the alleged misuse of federal money by local officials.
The report repeatedly cited a lack of progress and long delays. It also said state officials froze FEMA funds in October 2011 because local officials were trying to build a criminal intelligence center for the Philadelphia police, in violation of FEMA regulations when done with FEMA funds.
Everett Gillison, Philadelphia deputy mayor for public safety and Mayor Nutter's chief of staff, was integral in developing the project. He said the "criminal intelligence center" mentioned in the report was a criminal analytic section - for analyzing data and long-term crime trends - that was not funded with federal money.
He said the report was plain wrong.
"They didn't understand what we were trying to build," Gillison said. The Delaware Valley Intelligence Center is an expanded fusion center, which allowed the city to pair its money with federal grants, he said.
The center is one of 78 in the country. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recommended and funded fusion centers after determining that lack of intelligence-sharing was a contributing factor in the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath.
Situated at the former U.S. Army's Quartermaster Corps complex around 20th and Johnston Streets, the refurbished complex now houses the Philadelphia Police Department's Real-Time Crime Center, which aggregates the video feeds from police surveillance cameras around the city.
It also is home to the Homeland Security Unit and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Unit Area, among others, and employs about 135 staffers.
"This is the one stop-shopping for regional information exchange," Nutter said at Friday's event.
In addition, the center will communicate with the other fusion centers around the country.
The Department of Homeland Security pledged to commit personnel, training and technical assistance to the center.
Stacy Irving, senior director of crime-prevention services in the Center City District, said the center was one of the first to begin its operations in partnership with the private sector, such as the University of Pennsylvania.