Middleware could ease homeland security network access

Middleware technology could be the loom that weaves together various classified networks that law enforcement officials use to exchange homeland security information, according to officials speaking today at the AFCEA Homeland Security 2007 Conference in Washington.

The morning panel on fusion centers described how these new installations, bristling with advanced technology, are reaching out to federal data sources to obtain intelligence information. Fusion center leaders are also increasingly cooperating to create a national web of information exchange, panelists said.

Robert Riegle, the Homeland Security Department's state and local fusion center director, said, 'It is possible through the use of middleware to be able to allow a single log-on to [the Homeland Secure Information Network, Law Enforcement Online, Regional Information Sharing System network and other sensitive but unclassified networks].'

Though middleware technology has the capability to allow users to log on once to gain access to several networks, it has not yet been deployed for that purpose.

Riegle and other panelists discussed how existing laws at times prevent agencies from freely exchanging information. Panel moderator R. Carter Morris and other federal officials emphasized that the participation of DHS, the FBI and other federal agencies in the fusion centers has jumpstarted state officials' access to federal networks at various levels of classification.

However, the lack of a single-sign-on capability remains frustrating for law enforcement officials, the panelists added.

In addition to deploying advanced technology to support states' all-crimes fusion centers, the federal government is forging a new coordination organization under the Information Environment program to meld and harmonize intelligence from various sources.

Lora Becker, incoming director of the federal state and local threat reporting and assessments coordination group at DHS, said her new organization would begin operating tomorrow. She said 'this coordination group is not a watch-and-warning center.'

The new coordination group will complement and support existing law enforcement intelligence and homeland security agencies, and 'and fuse and unify the U.S. government perspective,' Becker said.

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