Sharing information with nonfederal officials is an important tool in federal efforts to secure the nation's ports against a potential terrorist attack. The Coast Guard has lead responsibility in coordinating maritime information sharing efforts. The Coast Guard has established area maritime security committees--forums that involve federal and nonfederal officials who identify and address risks in a port. The Coast Guard and other agencies have sought to further enhance information sharing and port security operations by establishing interagency operational centers--command centers that tie together the efforts of federal and nonfederal participants. GAO was asked to review the efforts to see what impact the committees and interagency operational centers have had on improving information sharing and to identify any barriers that have hindered information sharing.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|United States Coast Guard||1. To help ensure that nonfederal officials receive needed security clearances as quickly as possible, both now and in the future, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Commandant of the Coast Guard to develop formal procedures so that local and headquarters officials use the Coast Guard's internal databases of state, local, and industry security clearances for area maritime committee members as a management tool to monitor who has submitted applications for a security clearance and to take appropriate action when application trends point to possible problems. For example, updating the database on a routine basis could identify port areas where progress is slow and indicate that follow-up with local field office officials may be needed.|
|United States Coast Guard||2. To help ensure that nonfederal officials receive needed security clearances as quickly as possible, both now and in the future, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Commandant of the Coast Guard to raise the awareness of state, local, and industry officials about the process of applying for security clearances. This effort could involve using brochures, Web sites, or other information that the FBI has used in its program for educating state and local officials about the security clearance process.|