New office seen needed to manage homeland security networks

The government needs a new organization to manage the technical and cultural issues raised by linking homeland security networks that operate at the sensitive but unclassified level, an intelligence community official said this week.

David Martin McCormick, director of information management in the Intelink Management Office, said the intelligence community, the association of federal agencies with intelligence operations, learned when it consolidated secret and top secret networks that a committee approach to linking networks doesn't work and that a central organization is needed.

The Homeland Security Department would be a logical organization to run the proposed office, Martin McCormick said, 'But they are struggling with their own problems' and might have difficulty handling the task.

Martin McCormick spoke during a panel discussion of the National Criminal Justice Information Sharing Plan at the eGov Homeland Security Conference in Washington Dec. 2. Other panelists discussed the various networks at the sensitive but unclassified level that provide homeland security information to law enforcement officials at the federal, state and local levels. The NCJIS includes a plan for connecting the networks in a web sometimes referred to as the Federated Networks, which would include the FBI's Law Enforcement Online, the Justice Department's Regional Information Sharing System network, the intelligence community's Open Source Information System and others.

Martin McCormick said the Federated Networks now resemble the status of federal secret and top secret networks in 1994, when the intelligence community began combining military and intelligence networks. 'It became apparent that these islands of networks had to be connected to each other, otherwise we were going to be unable to carry out the national security missions we had.' He said the connectivity and information sharing issues the project faced were major national security concerns.

Over the past 10 years, the intelligence community has learned a lot of lessons in the process of building Intelink, Martin McCormick said. 'We learned about operations, about understanding user needs, figuring out how we were going to deal with security across different networks and dealing with very different cultures,' he said.

The Federated Networks now face similar problems. 'You have very different cultures'the state and local law enforcement officers are very different from the CIA analysts. The communities really don't understand each other, and they need to if we are going to carry out the homeland security mission,' he said.

Martin McCormick added, 'The cultures are going to be clashing, and we need some sort of organization to mediate these questions so we can solve them on a day-to-day basis and do it as a permanent job.'


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