Leaders from Coast Guard Sector Houston-Galveston, Homeland Security Investigations Houston (HSI), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Houston and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Houston announced Thursday the establishment of a Joint Intelligence and Operations Coordination Center (JIOCC) in Houston.
Located within Sector Houston-Galveston, the new multi-agency coordination center will directly support the Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana Regional Coordinating Mechanism (ReCoM) and be staffed with personnel from the Coast Guard, HSI, CBP and TSA. JIOCC staff will include a full-time counterdrug analyst from the Texas National Guard whose focus will be providing analytical support to DHS components.
The JIOCC’s primary purpose is to act as a unified control center and coordinate operations between participating agencies to bolster interoperability and deconflict where an agency’s operations may overlap with others. Additionally, the JIOCC will serve as a ready-made event command post in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency, such as a strong hurricane.
The establishment of the JIOCC is part of DHS efforts to modernize the Maritime Operations Coordination Plan (MOC-P) by establishing coordination cells in strategic locations around the country to facilitate intelligence sharing and coordinate operations for an efficient, effective and unified departmental response to threats against the United States in the maritime environment.
“By bringing together and leveraging each agency’s unique strengths, authorities and capabilities, we are better postured to protect the ports and waterways of Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana,” said Coast Guard Capt. Jason Smith, commander, Sector Houston-Galveston and ReCoM executive committee member. “The establishment of this JIOCC illustrates our commitment to enhancing maritime homeland security by improving intelligence and information sharing, and increasing operational integration and deconfliction.”
“Combatting transnational criminal activity and threats to U.S. national security in the maritime domain is complex and requires a layered approach,” said HSI Houston Assistant Special Agent in Charge Fred Garza, who will serve as co-director of the Houston JIOCC. “To effectively respond to potential threats, it is critical to establish a coordinated cross-component command center to share and analyze intelligence and be postured to respond operationally in a moment’s notice.”
“Using a multi-agency approach committed to sharing intelligence and resources to support operations developed within the JIOCC positions the group to provide a unified, agile and encyclopedic response to maritime threats,” said CBP Port Director Roderick Hudson, JIOCC partner. “The varied experiences, assets and abilities will serve as a force multiplier enhancing our ability to provide a scalable security presence along the Gulf Coast.”
“As we work to improve security and safeguard the transportation systems, TSA Surface Operations must communicate and share resources with our federal partners,” said Hector Vela, federal security director, TSA, William P. Hobby Airport. “There is no better way to communicate than by combining resources in one location. The JIOCC creates the flow of consistent communication and incorporates the framework for long-term partnerships while increasing security.”