Federal agencies have started projects to improve how they share terrorism-related information with the intelligence community and other public and private partners. However, there hasn't been a Program Manager to review or assess the impact of these projects since 2017. As a result, it's unclear if these programs are meeting the priority objectives set in the national information-sharing strategy.
Conflicting changes to the law have recently made it difficult to select a new Program Manager. Our recommendations would help ensure that the position is filled and agency progress is assessed.
What GAO Found
The Information Sharing Environment (ISE) is a framework to improve terrorism-related information sharing among federal and non-federal partners (i.e., Tribal, state, local, territorial, and private sector partners) through policy guidelines, common standards, and technologies. In 2013, federal officials developed an implementation plan that identified 16 priority objectives (e.g., develop baseline sharing capabilities) needed to implement the framework. As of 2017, federal agencies—including the Office of the Director of the National Intelligence (ODNI), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and Department of Justice (DOJ)—had completed all but three of the 16 priority objectives.
The Information Sharing Environment
GAO found that agencies have implemented ISE-related projects to complete the three remaining priority objectives since 2017. However, since that time, there has not been a Program Manager to guide and assess those efforts. Assessing agencies' progress with the ISE is a statutory responsibility of the Program Manager. Without someone in this position to assess agency efforts, how much work is needed to complete the ISE Implementation Plan's' remaining objectives remains undetermined.
GAO also identified recent amendments to the statute establishing the ISE that, according to White House and ODNI officials, have complicated efforts to name a new ISE Program Manager. Clarifying that the President has full statutory authority to fill the Program Manager position would help ensure that a new Program Manager is named to continue work on the ISE Implementation Plan and broader federal terrorism information sharing goals.
Why GAO Did This Study
Evolving terrorist threats, such as those posed by lone offenders and those who are radicalized online, highlight the continued need for effective information sharing between the federal government and its non-federal partners. In 2004, Congress passed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, which required the President to establish and develop the ISE. The ISE Implementation Plan has guided federal efforts in this area.
GAO was asked to review federal efforts related to the ISE Implementation Plan. This report examines, among other things, the extent to which agencies took action to complete the plan's objectives. GAO reviewed agency documents and interviewed ODNI, DHS, DOJ and White House officials about their implementation efforts. GAO assessed these efforts against statutory provisions.
Congress should consider amending the ISE's enabling statute to clarify authorities for filling the Program Manager position. In addition, GAO is recommending that the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism take steps to ensure that (1) a Program Manager is in place and (2) implementation efforts are assessed. The Executive Office of the President did not provide comments on GAO's recommendations.
Matter for Congressional Consideration
|Congress should consider further amending the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 to clarify that the President has responsibility both to designate and to appoint a Program Manager for the ISE. (Matter for Consideration 1)||
|As of August 2023, Congress has not passed legislation that would address the matter.|
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Executive Office of the President||The Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism should take steps to ensure the presidential responsibilities related to the Information Sharing Environment (ISE) within the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, as amended, including the designation of a Program Manager for the ISE, are fulfilled. (Recommendation 1)||
|Executive Office of the President||The Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism should take steps to ensure that the Program Manager, once appointed, reviews and assesses agencies' progress implementing the Information Sharing Environment, consistent with responsibilities in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, as amended, and in coordination with other appropriate agencies. (Recommendation 2)||