HSIN's unsteady path


The Homeland Security Department starts building a pilot version of the Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN) as an extension of a nationwide law enforcement program called the Joint Regional Information Exchange System (JRIES). Both networks operate at the sensitive-but-unclassified security level, which is also known as the law-enforcement-sensitive level.

December 2003

The department's HSIN pilot undergoes shakedown testing.

February 2004

DHS officially launches HSIN.

Throughout 2004

Officials of RISSNet, a law enforcement network funded by the Justice Department and controlled by six regional groups of police agencies, negotiate with DHS' HSIN managers in a bid to fully connect the incompatible systems and eliminate overlapping functions. RISSNet officials present several briefings to DHS officials about their system, but progress is slow. Eventually, HSIN and RISSNet establish a limited connection that bars transfer of data such as file attachments.

May 2005

DHS confirms that JRIES' executive board has scuttled plans to fully merge their system with HSIN. The rupture occurs amid accusations by law enforcement officials that sensitive JRIES information had leaked onto the Internet via HSIN.

Spring 2006

DHS adds its Common Operating Picture, an online situational-awareness tool, to share information to HSIN. Early versions of COP focus on hurricane season updates. COP also includes the infrastructure critical-asset viewer, or iCAV, a geospatial application that can overlay events such as hurricanes onto infrastructure assets.

June 2006

The department upgrades HSIN's systems. In the process, DHS severs HSIN's connection with RISSNet.

June 2006

DHS Inspector General Richard Skinner issues a report citing pervasive flaws in HSIN systems and management. The department rushed HSIN deployment without gathering views from other agencies on how to structure its connects, Skinner reports. DHS also failed to train users on HSIN's functions and capabilities, according to the IG.

Late 2006 to Early 2007

The Government Accountability Office prepares a report on HSIN. When
the auditors ask department officials why HSIN never completed its links
with RISSNet, DHS officials respond that the executives who were involved
in those talks have left the agency.

May 2007

DHS tells the House Homeland Security Committee that it plans to upgrade HSIN technology and reconnect the system to RISSNet.

May 2007

GAO reports on pervasive HSIN problems that have resulted in a stand-alone design. The audit agency found that DHS uses at least 11 homeland security networks. During fiscal 2005 and 2006, the DHS networks cost $611.8 million to develop, operate and maintain, according to GAO. DHS states that HSIN costs about $21 million annually.

May 2008

A senior DHS official's estimate of when the department will complete upgrades and management reorganization steps recommended by GAO 12 months previously.

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