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District of Columbia

The District of Columbia, if it were a state, would rank 15th in dollar amount for federal homeland security grants in 2009 and seventh in domestic preparedness and antiterrorism programs. D.C. is the nation's capital, the seat of government and the headquarters of most intelligence and homeland security agencies. In addition, U.S. intelligence and homeland security agencies and the Department of Justice measure the potential terrorist threat to the District of Columbia by analyzing data, including the following:

* Three major terrorist plots relating to the District have been thwarted since 9/11: the Dhiren Barot financial centers plot focused on New York City, New Jersey and the District in 2004; the Syed Haris Ahmed and Ehsanul Islam Sadequee plot to attack the Capitol and other targets in 2006; and the airliner liquid explosives plot related to the District, New York and Los Angeles in 2006. * The District had four terrorism-related convictions from Sept. 11, 2001, through March 2010, according to the Justice Department. * The National Capital Region (NCR) (by law, the District of Columbia and parts of Maryland and Virginia) is one of the 64 urban metropolitan areas that have been designated by the federal government as "high-threat, high-density" with regard to acts of terrorism. The NCR comprises 23 jurisdictions spread over three states and more than 20 independent police departments in the District (university, federal and other). The District government has its own Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA) and fusion center, both of which work closely with federal government partners. The FBI's Washington field office is the nation's largest, and more than a dozen federal and five state-level fusion centers are focused on defense of the nation's capital. Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region (JFHQ-NCR), established in 2003 at Fort McNair, is the military agency responsible for homeland security and weapons of mass destruction "consequence management" and is a part of U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM).

State security snapshot

Organizations working on homeland security and counterterrorism: 39

Organizations that started this work after 9/11: 7

82.1% Pre-9/11

17.9% Post-9/11

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The District of Columbia is a member of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. The Homeland Security Act of 2002 defined the National Capital Region as the District of Columbia; Montgomery and Prince George's counties in Maryland; Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties and the city of Alexandria in Virginia; and all cities and other units of government within the geographic areas of such District, counties and city. The District is located in FEMA Region III; the Defense Coordinating Office responsible for brokering and arranging federal military support for the District is in Philadelphia.

Law Enforcement
Law Enforcement
Includes organizations at the federal, state and local levels that have the police powers to make arrests and investigate criminal matters.
Emergency Management
Emergency Management
Organizations tasked with responding to natural disasters, attacks using weapons of mass destruction and other emergencies.
Homeland Security
Homeland Security
Organizations responsible for activities -- such as infrastructure protection, border control and planning for the aftermath of terrorist attacks -- handled mainly by the Department of Homeland Security.
Organizations, such as the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces, that work exclusively on terrorism cases.
Joint Terrorism Task Force
A multiagency task force, run by the FBI, that has the lead in investigating terrorism within the United States.
Intelligence and Fusion
Organizations that collect, analyze and share information about domestic threats.
Fusion Centers
Fusion Center
A place where information from multiple agencies in a state or region is sent to be analyzed.
Totals 324339


  • Counterterrorism

    The FBI's Washington Joint Terrorsim Task Force. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia is the nation's largest, enforcing the criminal laws of the United States and the District and thus serving as both the federal prosecutor and the local district attorney. The national security section handles all terrorism, terrorism hoax, export enforcement and espionage matters; investigations into leaks, mishandling or other disclosure of classified information; and other sensitive matters that implicate national security and/or have significant extraterritorial aspects.

  • Intelligence

    The District of Columbia was one of six states (through the NCR) to initially test the Department of Homeland Security's Homeland Security Information System - Intel (HSIN-Intel) pilot, which allows fusion centers to directly share classified information to identify trends and patterns that may represent links to terrorism. The District is a member of the Middle Atlantic-Great Lakes Organized Crime Law Enforcement Network (MAGLOCLEN), the Multi-State Information Sharing and Analysis Center (MS-ISAC), and the National Capital Region Law Enforcement Information Exchange (NCR-LInX). In 2010, the Metropolitan Police Department was designated as one of 12 state agencies to participate in the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) initiative.

    At the federal level, the FBI's field office operates a Field Intelligence Group (FIG) focused on threats to the District. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Field Intelligence Group in Washington has jurisdiction over the District and Virginia.

  • Fusion

    The Washington Regional Threat and Analysis Center (WRTAC) (formerly the Metropolitan Washington Fusion Center), is operated by the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and is the District's citywide all-hazards fusion center. Almost 100 local, state and federal agencies participate in the WRTAC, which is one of 12 initial pilot sites for the Nationwide SAR Initiative. The WRTAC and the MPD are collaborating on the Terrorist Incident Prevention Program (TIPP), a private industry suspicious-activity partnership that feeds threat information to the WRTAC from more than 60 types of high-risk businesses and industries. The WRTAC is also a member of the five-state NCR Fusion Center Directors Exchange Program, which includes analyst exchanges, regional Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) exchange, Terrorist Screening Center notifications and exchanges of criminal or border crime data.

  • Homeland Security

    The District of Columbia Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA) manages the District's emergency operations to prevent, respond to and recover from natural and man-made emergencies, and serves as the central communications point during regional emergencies. The HSEMA operations division runs a 24/7 Emergency Operations Center (EOC), the city's main operational control and communications facility during an emergency, disaster or special event. To assist in critical infrastructure protection, a DHS Security Advisor in Washington works with the HSEMA.

  • Law Enforcement

    The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) is the primary law enforcement agency for the District of Columbia. The MPD is a partner in the National Capital Region Law Enforcement Information Exchange (NCR-LInX), a system that links local databases and allows investigators to develop leads for terrorist incidents in the NCR. The FBI's Washington field office is among the busiest of the agency's 56 field offices. The office has more than 750 agents, and on any given day, more than one-quarter are working counterterrorism cases.

  • Emergency Management

    The District of Columbia Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA) is the city agency for coordinating disaster/emergency preparedness. The District of Columbia Emergency Preparedness Council (EPC) is the principal body that addresses planning and implementation efforts identified in the District Response Plan (DRP).

Sourcing: Department of Homeland Security, Justice Department and state government documents.
OrganizationCityStarted since 9/11
11th Security Forces Squadron (U.S. Army)Washington 
33rd Civil Support Team (Nat'l Guard)Washingtonx
AFOSI DET 332 (Air Force)Washington 
AFOSI Washington D.C. JTTF (33 FIS) (Air Force)Washingtonx
AFOSI XOQ OL-C (Air Force)Washington 
D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPDC)Washington 
D.C. Metropolitan Police Department Special Operations DivisionWashington 
District Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (D.C.)Washingtonx
District of Columbia National GuardWashington 
FPS National Capital Region (NCR-11) (Fed. Protective Service)Washington 
Intelligence/Counter-Terrorism Unit, Icon Protection Branch (Homeland Sec.)Washingtonx
Joint Forces Headquarters National Capital Region (JFHQ-NCR) (NORTHCOM)Washingtonx
Joint Task Force National Capital Region (JTF-NCR) (NORTHCOM)Washingtonx
Multiple Threat Alert Center (MTAC) (Navy)Washington 
Nations Capitol Members Alliance Infraguard (FBI)Washington 
NCIS Office Of Special Projects (Navy)Washington 
NCIS Technical Services Det Washington (Navy)Washington 
NCIS Washington Field Office (Navy)Washington 
Office of Detention and Removal Operations (ICE)Washington 
Office of National Capital Region Coordination (NCRC) (FEMA)Washington 
Office of Security and Program Protection (NASA)Washington 
Protective Security Advisor Washington District (DHS)Washingtonx
SAC Washington D.C. (ICE)Washington 
USAO District of Columbia (U.S. Attorney)Washington 
USMS District of Columbia - District Court (Marshals)Washington 
USMS District of Columbia - Superior Court (Marshals)Washington 
Walter Reed Branch Office (U.S. Army)Washington 
Washington D.C. Field Division (ATF)Washington 
Washington D.C. Field Division (DEA)Washington 
Washington D.C. Field Office (Air Marshal)Washington 
Washington D.C. Field Office (ATF)Washington 
Washington DC Financial Crimes Task Force (Secret Service)Washington 
Washington D.C. JTTF 308th Military Intelligence Battalion LiaisonWashington 
Washington D.C. JTTF (FBI)Washington 
Washington D.C. Regional Counterintelligence Office (Dept. of Energy)Washington 
Washington-Metro Electronic Crimes Task Force (Secret Service)Washington 
Washington Metropolitan Field Office (FBI)Washington 
Washington Metro Transit Police DepartmentWashington 
Wash. Regional Threat and Analysis Center (WRTAC)Washington 

State-Recognized Threats:
Public SafetyExtreme heat; Floods; Hurricanes; Thunderstorms; Tornadoes; Winter storms; Extreme cold
Domestic SecurityWhite supremacists
Sourcing: Natural hazards are taken from DHS documents and State Emergency Operations Plans. Domestic terrorist threats are based upon U.S. government intelligence documents and actual attacks undertaken since 2001.

This project was last updated in September 2010. Data is accurate as of that date.
"Top Secret America" is a project nearly two years in the making that describes the huge national security buildup in the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. | Read More »

More than a dozen Washington Post journalists spent two years developing Top Secret America. | See the details »


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The reporters

Dana Priest

Investigative reporter Dana Priest has been The Washington Post's intelligence, Pentagon and health-care reporter. She has won numerous awards, including the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for public service for "The Other Walter Reed" and the 2006 Pulitzer for beat reporting for her work on CIA secret prisons and counterterrorism operations overseas. She is author of the 2003 book, "The Mission: Waging War and Keeping Peace With America's Military, (W.W. Norton).

William M. Arkin

William M. Arkin has been a columnist and reporter with The Washington Post and since 1998. He has worked on the subject of government secrecy and national security affairs for more than 30 years. He has authored or co-authored more than a dozen books about the U.S. military and national security.

Project Credits

Stephanie Clark, Ben de la Cruz, Kat Downs, Dan Drinkard, Anne Ferguson-Rohrer, Justin Ferrell, David Finkel, Jennifer Jenkins, Robert Kaiser, Laris Karklis, Jacqueline Kazil, Lauren Keane, Todd Lindeman, Greg Manifold, Jennifer Morehead, Bonnie Jo Mount, Larry Nista, Ryan O’Neil, Sarah Sampsel, Whitney Shefte, Laura Stanton, Julie Tate, Doris Truong, Nathaniel Vaughn Kelso, Michael Williamson, Karen Yourish, Amanda Zamora.

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