Homeland Security:

Efforts to Improve Information Sharing Need to Be Strengthened

GAO-03-760: Published: Aug 27, 2003. Publicly Released: Aug 27, 2003.

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The sharing of information by federal authorities to state and city governments is critical to effectively execute and unify homeland security efforts. This report examines (1) what initiatives have been undertaken to improve information sharing and (2) whether federal, state, and city officials believe that the current information-sharing process is effective.

Since September 11, 2001, federal, state, and city governments have established initiatives to improve the sharing of information to prevent terrorism. Many of these initiatives were implemented by states and cities and not necessarily coordinated with other sharing initiatives, including those by federal agencies. At the same time, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has initiatives under way to enhance information sharing, including the development of a homeland security blueprint, known as an "enterprise architecture," to integrate sharing between federal, state, and city authorities. GAO surveyed federal, state, and city government officials on their perceptions of the effectiveness of the current information-sharing process. Numerous studies, testimonies, reports, and congressional commissions substantiate our survey results. Overall, no level of government perceived the process as effective, particularly when sharing information with federal agencies. Information on threats, methods, and techniques of terrorists is not routinely shared; and the information that is shared is not perceived as timely, accurate, or relevant. Moreover, federal officials have not yet established comprehensive processes and procedures to promote sharing. Federal respondents cited the inability of state and city officials to secure and protect classified information, the lack of federal security clearances, and a lack of integrated databases as restricting their ability to share information. DHS needs to strengthen efforts to improve the information sharing process so that the nation's ability to detect or prepare for attacks is strengthened.

Status Legend:

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  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: In developing its enterprise architecture, the Secretary of Homeland Security should work with the Attorney General of the United States; the Secretary of Defense; the Director, Office of Management and Budget; the Director, Central Intelligence; and other appropriate federal, state, and city authorities and the private sector to ensure that the enterprise architecture efforts identify and address the perceived barriers to federal information sharing.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Management: Chief Information Officer

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Summer 2006: The DHS/IG was unable to provide a status of the recommendation. In May 2007, DHS officials stated that all five recommendations have been overtaken by events in the information sharing space since the Director of National Intelligence was created to include the Information Haring Environment Program Management Office and the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis, under which the Homeland Security information sharing initiatives are coordinated. The DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis is working with the DHS CIO to create an Information Sharing Segment Architecture that will be published with the Homeland Security Enterprise Architecture 2008 (HLS-EA 2008) on February 28, 2008. However, in 2007 GAO's Information Technology team issued a report on information sharing (GAO-07-455)that made the same recommendations as the 2003 report. The recommendations made in 2003 were not implemented, therefore they are categorized as closed, not implemented. The IT team will follow up on their recommendations made in 2007.

    Recommendation: In developing its enterprise architecture, the Secretary of Homeland Security should work with the Attorney General of the United States; the Secretary of Defense; the Director, Office of Management and Budget; the Director, Central Intelligence; and other appropriate federal, state, and city authorities and the private sector to ensure that the enterprise architecture efforts fully integrate states and cities in the national policy-making process for information sharing and take steps to provide greater assurance that actions at all levels of government are mutually reinforcing.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Management: Chief Information Officer

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Summer 2006: The DHS/IG was unable to provide the status of this recommendation. In May 2007, DHS officials stated that all five recommendations have been overtaken by events in the information sharing space since the Director of National Intelligence was created to include the Information Haring Environment Program Management Office and the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis, under which the Homeland Security information sharing initiatives are coordinated. The DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis is working with the DHS CIO to create an Information Sharing Segment Architecture that will be published with the Homeland Security Enterprise Architecture 2008 (HLS-EA 2008) on February 28, 2008. However, in 2007 GAO's Information Technology team issued a report on information sharing (GAO-07-455)that made the same recommendations as the 2003 report. The recommendations made in 2003 were not implemented, therefore they are categorized as closed, not implemented. The IT team will follow up on their recommendations made in 2007.

    Recommendation: In developing its enterprise architecture, the Secretary of Homeland Security should work with the Attorney General of the United States; the Secretary of Defense; the Director, Office of Management and Budget; the Director, Central Intelligence; and other appropriate federal, state, and city authorities and the private sector to ensure that the enterprise architecture efforts establish a clearinghouse to coordinate the various information-sharing initiatives to eliminate possible confusion and duplication of effort.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Management: Chief Information Officer

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Summer 2006: The DHS/IG was unable to provide the status of this recommendation. In May 2007, DHS officials stated that all five recommendations have been overtaken by events in the information sharing space since the Director of National Intelligence was created to include the Information Haring Environment Program Management Office and the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis, under which the Homeland Security information sharing initiatives are coordinated. The DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis is working with the DHS CIO to create an Information Sharing Segment Architecture that will be published with the Homeland Security Enterprise Architecture 2008 (HLS-EA 2008) on February 28, 2008.However, in 2007 GAO's Information Technology team issued a report on information sharing (GAO-07-455)that made the same recommendations as the 2003 report. The recommendations made in 2003 were not implemented, therefore they are categorized as closed, not implemented. The IT team will follow up on their recommendations made in 2007.

    Recommendation: In developing its enterprise architecture, the Secretary of Homeland Security should work with the Attorney General of the United States; the Secretary of Defense; the Director, Office of Management and Budget; the Director, Central Intelligence; and other appropriate federal, state, and city authorities and the private sector to ensure that the enterprise architecture efforts incorporate the existing information-sharing guidance that is contained in the various national strategies and the information-sharing procedures required by the Homeland Security Act to be established by the President.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Management: Chief Information Officer

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Summer 2006: The DHS/IG was unable to provide a status of the recommendation. In May 2007, DHS officials stated that all five recommendations have been overtaken by events in the information sharing space since the Director of National Intelligence was created to include the Information Sharing Environment Program Management Office and the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis, under which the Homeland Security information sharing initiatives are coordinated. The DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis is working with the DHS CIO to create an Information Sharing Segment Architecture that will be published with the Homeland Security Enterprise Architecture 2008 (HLS-EA 2008) on February 28, 2008. However, in 2007 GAO's Information Technology team issued a report on information sharing (GAO-07-455)that made the same recommendations as the 2003 report. The recommendations made in 2003 were not implemented, therefore they are categorized as closed, not implemented. The IT team will follow up on their recommendations made in 2007.

    Recommendation: In developing its enterprise architecture, the Secretary of Homeland Security should work with the Attorney General of the United States; the Secretary of Defense; the Director, Office of Management and Budget; the Director, Central Intelligence; and other appropriate federal, state, and city authorities and the private sector to ensure that the enterprise architecture efforts include the use of survey methods or related data collection approaches to determine, over time, the needs of private and public organizations for information related to homeland security and to measure progress in improving information sharing at all levels of government.

    Agency Affected: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Management: Chief Information Officer

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Summer 2006: The DHS/IG was unable to provide a status of the recommendation. In May 2007, DHS officials stated that all five recommendations have been overtaken by events in the information sharing space since the Director of National Intelligence was created to include the Information Haring Environment Program Management Office and the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis, under which the Homeland Security information sharing initiatives are coordinated. The DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis is working with the DHS CIO to create an Information Sharing Segment Architecture that will be published with the Homeland Security Enterprise Architecture 2008 (HLS-EA 2008) on February 28, 2008. However, in 2007 GAO's Information Technology team issued a report on information sharing (GAO-07-455)that made the same recommendations as the 2003 report. The recommendations made in 2003 were not implemented, therefore they are categorized as closed, not implemented. The IT team will follow up on their recommendations made in 2007.

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