Kirk speaks to multi-national group

Photo Provided Deputy Secretary Thom Kirk of the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety addresses a training exercise demonstrating the benefits of intelligence and information sharing, during a multinational conference in Manado, Indonesia, earlier this month.

CHARLESTON — A deputy secretary of the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety has advised a multi-national group on the request of the U.S. military.

Deputy Security Thom Kirk of the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety was asked by the U.S. Navy to participate in a conference in Manado, Indonesia, this month where he discussed how information-sharing by law enforcement and other agencies can thwart the drug trade, human trafficking and slavery, piracy, illegal fishing and the transoceanic smuggling of stolen and counterfeit goods.

“Development and sharing of information and intelligence is critical to the health, safety, and wellbeing of this nation,” Kirk said.

Kirk helped found and lead the West Virginia Intelligence Fusion Center, which marked its 10th anniversary in March, that was developed in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in America. Fusion centers allow law enforcement, public safety agencies and private sector partners share information, resources and expertise.

“Every day, military affairs and public safety employees like Deputy Secretary Kirk are making historic contributions to keep the United States and West Virginia safe,” department Secretary Jeff Sandy said. “In today’s world, it so important to stop criminals and terrorists in their place of origin versus them reaching American soil.”

West Virginia’s is among 79 state and local fusion centers in the U.S. Kirk is a longtime board member and executive officer of the National Fusion Center Association.

He represented the association at the Manado conference, meeting with officials from Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste.

The nations formed the Coral Triangle Initiative to address their region’s most pressing economic and environmental issues including food security and marine biodiversity. The countries encompass nearly 2.5 million square miles between the Pacific and Indian oceans.

Indonesia alone consists of more than 13,000 islands, underscoring the far-flung nature of the counties in this region.

“Now, with the steps that the Coral Triangle Initiative is taking, in conjunction with the National Fusion Center Association, the U.S. Pacific Command, and many others, we can expand our knowledge while sharing vital and sometimes crucial intelligence on a global scale,” Kirk said.

Kirk participated in a workshop and a mock exercise he helped organize to demonstrate the benefits of the fusion center approach. Representatives from Fiji, Futuna, Thailand and Tonga also attended the conference.

A Navy veteran, Kirk’s career in law enforcement is grounded in his more than 24 years with the West Virginia State Police. He conducted major undercover and anti-narcotics trafficking investigations. He helped start the State Police’s Intelligence Exchange and its Bureau of Criminal Investigations, leading the latter. Kirk rose to the rank of colonel and State Police superintendent before retiring. Having earned a law degree while with the State Police, Kirk has also been both an assistant county prosecutor and a special assistant U.S. attorney.