Thursday, September 20, 2007

Status Report on the Information Sharing Environment

The Program Manager of the new Information Sharing Environment (PM-ISE) just released a new status report on the Information Sharing Environment. (For background on ISE, also see prior posts like these, especially this one.) The PM-ISE produced an implementation plan in November 2006; and since then they've been working to build the system.

Starting with the small stuff, the report gives us an interesting analogy to describe the ISE:

The ISE is not a new, independent information system. ... The ISE is a system of walkways, skyways, and corridors connecting the homeland security, intelligence, defense, law enforcement, and foreign affairs communities and the users of terrorism-related information within those communities.
Hmm ... sounds futuristic ... [cue the theremin] ...


As you might expect, the status report reflects a lot of initial planning and organizational activity. Yet it also sheds some light on DHS' priorities. For sharing information with state, local, and tribal agencies, there is a continued emphasis on fusion centers - almost to the point of total dependence:
State and major urban area fusion centers are vital organizations and are critical to sharing information related to terrorism. They will serve as the primary focal points within the State and local environment for the receipt and sharing of terrorism-related information, while at the same time also handling “all crimes” and “all hazards” related information. ... Agencies will provide terrorism-related information to state, local, and tribal (SLT) authorities primarily through these fusion centers.
Comparing the two bolded bits above, I like the first one a lot better. It emphasizes sharing and receiving information. The second implies that information-sharing is one-way. Hopefully I'm just being paranoid. The status report also says:
As part of the ISE, State and major urban area fusion centers will blend Federal and local information and produce informational products that support the needs of law enforcement and other State and local executives as they develop strategic priorities for their Agencies and, at the same time, produce products that will support the needs of individual police officers, deputy sheriffs, emergency managers, homeland security officials, and others who work with community members to prepare for and prevent crime, violence, and disorder.
They're aiming to network the fusion centers - a good approach:
Pursuant to Presidential Guideline 2, the Federal Government is promoting the establishment of an integrated network of fusion centers to facilitate effective nationwide terrorism-related information sharing. ... .
One question: Last November's implementation plan called for the creation of "hub" fusion centers: "
DOJ and DHS will work with Governors or other senior State and local leaders to designate a single fusion center to serve as the statewide or regional hub to interface with the Federal government and through which to coordinate the gathering, processing, analysis, and dissemination of terrorism information."

But the word "hub" does not appear in the status report. Has this idea been abandoned, or is it just further down the road?

Here's how they're organizing the effort:

An interagency Fusion Center Coordination Group (FCCG) has been established. Co-chaired by DHS and the FBI, this group, with the full participation of State and local officials, is responsible for ensuring that the Federal Government’s efforts to work with State and major urban area fusion centers are coordinated and carried out in a manner consistent with the President’s direction.

The Interagency Threat Assessment and Coordination Group (ITACG) is the component within the NCTC that enables and ensures the timely and consistent Federal government-wide coordination of intelligence reports regarding terrorist threats and events that are intended for dissemination to SLT authorities and the private sector.
Inclusion is good:
There has been active participation by SLT government officials in all activities related to the development and design of the ISE. The ISC established a SLT Subcommittee to provide input regarding the needs and capabilities of SLT and SLT representatives were actively involved in drafting the ISE IP. Representatives also are involved in ISE-related working groups focused on implementing the ISE ...
And there is money:

DOJ and DHS are working together to ensure that relevant Fiscal Year (FY) grant programs prioritize efforts to establish fusion centers (first done for FY2007).

And the feds will be involved, in-person:
FBI and DHS are developing an integrated deployment plan to ensure both organizations deploy Federal personnel to State and major urban area fusion centers in a coordinated manner.
But then .... there's this:
Where practical, Federal organizations will assign personnel to fusion centers and, to the extent practicable, will strive to integrate and collocate resources.
"Where practical"? "To the extent practicable"? That's no way to communicate a firm commitment to the effort, especially considering that a recent CRS report on fusion centers found that "
federal participation in state and regional fusion centers appears to influence the relationship between levels of government, state, and local access to information and resources, the flow of information/intelligence, and maturation with regards to intelligence cycle functions ... In general, fusion centers collocated with a federal agency reported favorable relationships with that agency. This was often in stark contrast to the views of other fusion centers not collocated with a federal agency(s)."

Hopefully I'm just still being paranoid. A few more uncoordinated notes:

On the architecture:
During this past year, the PM-ISE introduced the ISE architecture and standards framework, a cross-community, perpetuating framework to help ISE participants adjust, plan, install, and operate current and future information resources that form the infrastructure fabric of the ISE.
On creating a culture of sharing:
Development of a strong information sharing culture will require both the resources and commitment to improve current sharing practices and policies, and the accountability to ensure that the improvements are implemented.
True enough, but they have a long way to go. They're just starting to develop the training on core concepts, both for federal agencies and SLT:
“Core” awareness training and Agency-specific training are currently under development and review by the ISC Training Working Group.

Furthermore, the ISC Training Working Group will assist DOJ, DHS, and FBI in the development of information sharing training guidelines for use by SLT governments.
A last note on private-sector sharing and how it's envisioned:
The Critical Infrastructure Partnership Advisory Council (CIPAC) is the primary mechanism through which this coordination takes place. The CIPAC facilitates decision-making across Federal, SLT government, and private sector partners to support ISE-related policy, strategy, plans, issues, and requirements development.
They're going to network with the Sector Coordinating Councils and Government Coordinating Councils created under the National Infrastructure Protection Plan. (Though those are still under development, too.)

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