Data sharing's far from easy for many in the government

The National Guard's ability to share data for disaster planning and first response has been hampered by a stream of hacker intrusions on its unclassified networks over the past two years, its top information systems official says.

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

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

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 said. The Guard needs industry's help in plugging holes and ridding the bureau of 'touch labor,' she added.

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

Federal groups more often share information when responding to disasters, but earlier communication can help prevent incidents, Boyd said.

There's very little predisaster data sharing occurring now beyond tactical warfighting, 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.

Interoperability requires an open architecture, Paczkowski said.

Lischke said other problems the National Guard has with sharing information include a poor understanding of its business processes and a lack of bandwidth.

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