Wanted: coordination for sharing homeland security data

PHILADELPHIA'Officials who handle homeland security data say the government lacks a mechanism for coordinating data-sharing protocols and standards, they said at the Information Sharing for Homeland Security conference today.

"One thing that is missing is a shared governance," said Lee Holcomb, chief technology officer at the Homeland Security Department.

This isn't a purely technical issue, he said. "Governance has more to do with maintaining the funding base to make sure the edges of the networks are connected.'

But Maj. Joseph T. Booth, command inspector for the Louisiana State Police, said, much technical work is still needed to link systems that stow potentially useful information.

"A lot of the networks are not connected," he said. 'There are connectivity and data exchange difficulties."

Federal, state and local network managers need protocols, Booth said. The answer is to create an overarching network weaving together existing systems, he said. The network would have to provide features for the unique needs of the end-user agencies, Booth said.

"I think it would be wise to earmark money for this kind of connectivity," he said.

A senior intelligence community IT official added, "You have to have a governance plan to set standards and protocols for transactions between networks, no matter what you do within your own network.'

Such a policy exists for the top-secret and secret level systems used with the government's intelligence community, the official said. But no such plan exists for the sensitive but unclassified level and for law enforcement information, he said.

"As for funding, that is a very difficult area to control," the official said. "I think the Homeland Security Department's problem is that it is bringing together so many agencies that the networks are hard to coordinate."

Lawmakers agree a strategy is needed. "What we want to see is a plan," said Kim L. Kotlar, legislative director for Rep. William 'Mac' Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of a House Select Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Science and R&D.

Illinois has done similar work, said Aaron R. Kustermann, a criminal intelligence analyst with the Illinois State Police. He said the State Police have several intelligence networks, some with links to the FBI and to what he called a superwarehouse, the state's Information Sharing Initiative.

As to the homeland security systems that run at all levels of government, Kustermann said: "Someday, there is going to be a job for an integrator to take these systems and integrate them," he said.


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