Information Technology: Numerous Federal Networks Used to Support Homeland Security Need to Be Better Coordinated with Key State and Local Information-Sharing Initiatives

GAO-07-455 Published: Apr 16, 2007. Publicly Released: May 04, 2007.
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Highlights

A key challenge in securing our homeland is ensuring that critical information collected by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) is shared in a timely manner with federal, state, and local governments and the private sector. It is important that federal networks and associated systems, applications, and data facilitate this vital information sharing. GAO was asked to (1) identify DHS and DOJ networks and Internet-based system applications that support homeland security and (2) determine whether DHS efforts associated with its Homeland Security Information Network are being coordinated with key state and local information-sharing initiatives. GAO assessed the coordination between DHS and two key state and local initiatives of the Regional Information Sharing System program.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Homeland Security The Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Director, Office of Operations Coordination, to ensure that the Homeland Security Information Network efforts are effectively coordinated with key state and local government information-sharing initiatives. This should include (1) identifying existing and planned key state and local information-sharing initiatives and assessing whether there are opportunities for the program to improve information sharing and avoid duplication of effort; (2) where there are opportunities, adopting and institutionalizing key practices related to OMB's guidance on enhancing and sustaining agency coordination and collaboration, including developing documented policies and procedures to operate across organizational boundaries; and (3) ensuring that its coordination efforts are consistent with implementation of the Information Sharing Environment plan.
Closed - Implemented
In lieu of implementing our recommendations, DHS, in September 2007, canceled any further Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN) development or enhancements and began an initiative to develop and implement a new system (HSIN Next Generation), to better meet key users' information sharing needs. In developing this new system, DHS will (1) identify existing and planned key state and local information-sharing initiatives and assess whether there are opportunities for HSIN Next Generation to improve information sharing and avoid duplication of effort; (2) where there are opportunities, adopt and institutionalize key practices related to OMB's guidance on enhancing and sustaining agency coordination and collaboration, including developing documented policies and procedures to operate across organizational boundaries; and (3) ensure that its coordination efforts are consistent with implementation of the Information Sharing Environment plan.
Department of Homeland Security The Secretary of Homeland Security should determine whether there are coordination and duplication issues with other homeland security networks and associated systems and applications. In each case where issues are identified, the Secretary should direct the appropriate department executive to ensure that the efforts are effectively coordinated consistent with our recommendation above.
Closed - Implemented
Consistent with our recommendation, DHS took steps to address coordination and duplication issues with its homeland security networks and associated systems and applications. For example, in late 2007, DHS re-established an electronic information sharing link--which had previously been dropped--between the Homeland Security Information Network and the Regional Information Sharing System (RISS) operated by state and local law enforcement. Enabling this link allows DHS and state and local law enforcement to more effectively coordinate on and exchange terrorism and related information.

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