Information sharing networks overlap as policy gels

ORLANDO, Fla. - Information sharing networks being developed by the Homeland Security Department and the law enforcement and intelligence communities are beginning to provide overlapping capabilities, especially at the secret level.

DHS officials speaking at the Information Sharing for Homeland Security symposium here said they plan to expand the Homeland Security Information network, launched in February, to the secret level by the end of this year.

The system now operates at the sensitive but unclassified level.

Meanwhile, the intelligence community plans this year to expand the TTIC Online network, now operating at the top secret level, to the secret level. That network draws its information largely from the interagency Terrorist Threat Integration Center.

The HSIN, also known as the Joint Regional Information Exchange system, is not yet connected to the Law Enforcement Online/Regional Information Sharing System/Open Source Information system network, which operates at the sensitive but unclassified level.

Miles Matthews, chief operating officer of RISSnet, said he was frustrated by the proliferation of new homeland security networks.

RISSnet and HSIN officials have had meetings about connecting the two networks, but these discussions have not yet led to a full network connection.

"The key to information sharing is to stop sharing information in a hierarchical manner," said Charles Church, CIO of DHS' Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate.

He added that "the difference between a catastrophe and an incident is information sharing."

Part of the reason for the overlaps is the lack of a policy framework for gathering, analyzing and disseminating homeland security intelligence.

Joel Bagnal, former special assistant to the president for counter terrorism, described the framework in place for foreign intelligence sharing, which revolves in part around the National Security Council at the White House.

"On the domestic side, we don't have a framework," Bagnal said. "We need to have a clear understanding of what the [intelligence] requirements are."

"We need to have a policy framework that covers not only vertical information sharing with the states but horizontal information sharing across the federal government," Bagnal said.

"To say who is going to control it right now from the policy level'that question is unanswered," he said.

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