Data sharing needs to begin before first response, officials say

For the National Guard Bureau, the ability to share data for disaster planning and first response has been hampered by a constant stream of hacker intrusions on its unclassified networks over the past two years.

'We're getting hacked all over the place. I actually see it getting worse, and it's making it harder and harder for us to share information,' said Maureen Lischke, CIO for the National Guard Bureau.

She and other government officials spoke about data sharing to support homeland security at an Industry Advisory Council event in Washington.

'It really, really has become a huge challenge,' she said.

The current way the Guard handles the attacks is to go from PC to PC installing patches. But this has been difficult to manage in an organization roughly the size of Texas, she added. Lischke said her agency needs industry's help in plugging holes and ridding the bureau of 'touch labor.'

The federal government is still years away from true information sharing with state, local and regional agencies, said David Boyd, the Homeland Security Department's deputy director of R&D and director of the Safecom program to provide wireless communications to federal, state and local first responders.

Although cultural barriers represent the biggest hurdle, federal groups also need to think about sharing information before a major atrocity occurs, not after, Boyd said.

There's very little of such pre-disaster data sharing occurring now, beyond of the tactical warfighting level, said John Paczkowski, director of operations and emergency management for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Port Authority officials mainly share information via conference calls, rather than over networks, he said.

An open architecture is necessary to maintain some fundamental level of interoperability, Paczkowski said.

'I think we all have a sense of the problem, but we don't have a fix on the problem,' he said. 'There are a lot of systems out there that can foster collaboration among agencies.'

Lischke agreed, but added that agencies must look beyond their own needs. 'It's a huge educational process, making people aware that there's a world outside of their boundaries,' she said.

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