Bush: U.S. defense depends on data

For the Bush administration's proposed Terrorist Threat Integration Center to succeed, the FBI, CIA and other intelligence agencies will have to overcome the age-old problem of mixing databases and agency cultures.

But getting information to a single location will take more than just a high-speed Internet connection and some middleware, said David McClure, vice president for e-government at the Council for Excellence in Government of Washington.

'The integration piece will be critical across all the databases,' McClure said. 'The system must be able to assemble information quickly and intelligently and analyze it and disseminate it even more quickly.'

President Bush, who proposed the center in his State of the Union speech last month, said its data will help with protecting the nation.

'Our government must have the very best information possible,' he said. 'We will use it to make sure the right people are in the right places to protect all our citizens.'

The center will merge information from the CIA, FBI, Homeland Security Department and other sources at one site to piece together the most comprehensive threat scenarios possible, according to a White House fact sheet.

The White House said the proposal would ensure that intelligence information from all sources is shared, integrated and analyzed seamlessly, and then acted upon quickly.

The number of sources of information poses the biggest challenge, McClure said. He said it will be important for the system to have high-speed connections that can distribute data across levels of government.

Right step

Michael Scardaville, a policy analyst for homeland security at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington think tank, said a mechanism for agencies to share information would improve data transfers.

'We really have been lacking an institutional solution to our information-sharing problem,' he said. 'This is a step in that direction.'

He also said the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Total Information Awareness program to mine data from numerous government databases could help solve the data-sharing problem.

'The center would be the ideal place to use the technology developed by the Total Information Awareness program,' Scardaville said. 'Databases could be linked without having to take all that information out of the database. An analyst could query the data from outside the host network instead of doing traditional data mining.'

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