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June 10, 2022Houston, TX, United StatesOperational

HSI, DHS partners establish joint coordination center in Houston to respond to Gulf Coast maritime threats

Senior leaders from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Houston, U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Sector Houston-Galveston, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Houston, U.S. Border Patrol (BP), and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) mark the establishment of the Houston Joint Intelligence and Operations Coordination Center (JIOCC) during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the USCG (Sector Houston-Galveston) Headquarters in south Houston, June 7, 2022. The multi-agency coordination center will support regional efforts to combat maritime threats along the Gulf Coast.

HOUSTON — Leaders from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Houston, U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Sector Houston-Galveston, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Houston, and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Houston announced the establishment of a Joint Intelligence and Operations Coordination Center (JIOCC) to support regional efforts to combat maritime threats along the Gulf Coast, June 7.

The new multi-agency coordination center, housed at the USCG Sector Houston-Galveston Headquarters in south Houston, will directly support the Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana Regional Coordinating Mechanism (ReCoM) and be staffed with personnel from USCG, HSI, CBP and TSA. JIOCC staff will also include a full-time counterdrug analyst from the Texas National Guard whose focus will be providing analytical support to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) components.

The JIOCC’s primary purpose is to act as a unified control center and to 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.

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”

HSI is the principal investigative arm of DHS, responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

Updated: 06/10/2022