Monday, November 06, 2006

DHS To Embed Intel Officers at Fusion Centers

Government Executive is reporting that DHS plans to embed a team of intelligence officers at each of its fusion centers, to foster information sharing with state and local agencies:

The Homeland Security Department hopes to improve information sharing with state and local government fusion centers by giving those centers intelligence officers and an advanced communications network for classified information, a senior official said Friday.

Department Chief Intelligence Officer Charles Allen said he plans to have intelligence officers embedded at 18 fusion centers by the end of fiscal 2007 and at all other centers by the end of fiscal 2008.

"My plan is to embed in these centers -- every one of them -- a team of intelligence officers whose responsibilities include ensuring robust, two-way sharing of information," he added.

He said the department is retooling the Homeland Security Information Network at the secret level to communicate with centers on an interim basis until a more capable system is developed. Allen called the network "a weak system" that he is "going to get rid of" by replacing it with the Homeland Security Data Network.

He added that he plans to have the new network installed by January at every center where he has intelligence officers.

It's hard to argue against reinvigorated efforts to improve information-sharing. Regarding the HSIN, though, DHS needs to make sure they get it right. They've said they're going to fix the HSIN, but if DHS really wants to improve information-sharing with state and local authorities, they can't afford to get this wrong again.

I think they're making things harder by doing this in a two-step process - first, doing an interim fix on the HSIN, then replacing it completely. They need to show clear improvement in both iterations; otherwise they'll lose credibility. You can't just build new systems and hope that one eventually works. If each iteration isn't better, then they won't have a fix, but just a cumbersome annoyance.

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