Information Technology:

Major Federal Networks That Support Homeland Security Functions

GAO-04-375: Published: Sep 17, 2004. Publicly Released: Sep 17, 2004.

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A key information systems challenge in homeland security is ensuring that essential information is shared in a timely and secure manner among disparate parties in federal, state, and local governments, and in the private sectors. This requires communications networks that provide information-sharing capabilities between the various levels of government--federal, state, and local. GAO's objective was to identify and describe, through agency reporting, major networks and examples of applications that the agencies considered important in supporting their homeland security functions. (For purposes of this review, GAO defined networks as "the data communication links that enable computer systems to communicate with each other.") GAO corroborated agency-provided information about networks used by multiple agencies. While agencies verified the accuracy of the data about their networks, GAO cannot ensure that agencies provided data on all applicable networks. In commenting on a draft of this report, seven of the nine agencies generally concurred with the facts contained in this report. Technical comments were incorporated as appropriate. Two agencies declined to comment.

Nine agencies identified 34 major networks that support homeland security functions--32 that are operational and 2 that are being developed. Of these 34, 21 are single-agency networks designed for internal agency communications. Six of the 34 are used to share information with state and local governments; 4 share information with the private sector. The Department of Homeland Security is in the process of developing the new Homeland Secure Data Network. It is intended to become a significant vehicle for the sharing of homeland security information with state and local governments and classified information among civilian agencies. Agencies also provided examples of more than 100 major applications that support homeland security mission areas.

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