Monday, October 16, 2006

Markle Report #3: In-Depth Review

I recently finished reviewing the Markle Foundation Task Force's third report, "Mobilizing Information to Prevent Terrorism (pdf, 4.8MB)."

It was a somewhat disappointing report, though maybe not too surprising. Its essential finding is that, although information sharing has improved in the five years since 09/11/2001, it is still not adequate across levels of government. Here are a few excerpts I found especially significant:

State and local governments have not become full participants in the information sharing environment. Many feel they are still not getting the information they need, and that there is no effective process for sharing their information with the federal government.

[S]tate and local governments are critical to homeland security. They have more resources, they interact more frequently with the public, and they are often in a better position than the federal government to provide and act on useful information.

One of the most significant barriers to effective pre-September 11 information sharing, identified by numerous investigations, is risk aversion. Risk aversion arises in part from fear among government officers that information sharing that is clearly authorized at the time of sharing will subsequently be judged to be improper, resulting in personal criticism, career damage, and even criminal prosecution.

The human dimension is critically important for information sharing. . . . Lack of common training contributes to cultural gaps between intelligence, law enforcement, homeland security, and military personnel; these gaps remain a root cause of poor information sharing. The situation has become even more difficult as the community of counterterrorism analysts and collectors expands beyond the federal level to include state, local, and private sector participants, and as the volume of available information grows.
The report offers some suggestions for creating a comprehensive system for information sharing. Such a system may be the ultimate long-term answer; but given the current status of inadequate sharing across levels of government, there may be a need for shorter-term solutions. The threat is still present. Preventing catastrophe requires sharing information to recognize threats and manage risks. Only then can appropriate measures be taken to prevent disaster.

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