Two reports were released last month examining the progress made toward the creation of an Information Sharing Environment (ISE). The ISE was mandated by Section 1016 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (Intelligence Reform Act), which was passed in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Its purpose was to facilitate the sharing of terrorism-related and homeland security information in order to make the U.S. more secure. The concept of a distributed and trusted information sharing environment was recommended by the Markle Task Force on National Security in the Information Age.
On July 12, the Program Manager for the ISE, tasked by the President to oversee and manage the implementation of the ISE, released its 2011 ISE Annual Report to Congress—in essence, a progress report on information sharing activities in five key areas:
- First, the report highlights the work of the Information Sharing and Access Interagency Policy Committee and the expansion of the Committee’s working groups to include representatives of non-federal and private organizations in developing the ISE.
- Second, the report describes some success stories, with a particular emphasis on how the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative has streamlined reporting and analysis within fusion centers across the U.S.
- Third, the report describes efforts to identify the best existing technical standards for reuse and implementation across the ISE.
- Fourth, the report details progress that has been made toward implementing a Simplified Sign-On. According to the report, such a sign-on will enable federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement officers and analysts to access more easily a rich variety of data services provided by Assured Sensitive but Unclassified networks.
- Finally, the report provides some information on policies and training activities designed to enhance civil liberties protections.
A few days later, on July 21, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress, issued its own progress report on information sharing. The report opens by acknowledging that, “the Program Manager for the ISE and agencies have made progress in implementing a discrete set of goals and activities and are working to establish an ‘end-state vision’ that could help better define what the ISE is intended to achieve and include.” However, GAO subsequently points to certain key shortcomings. Two stand out:
- According to GAO, the PM-ISE has focused primarily on the homeland security and law enforcement communities. It should leverage all relevant agency initiatives, such as those involving the foreign affairs and intelligence communities, to enhance information sharing on a government-wide basis.
- GAO calls upon the ISE Project Manager to provide a roadmap for how the information sharing environment should look in the future. This roadmap would, among other things, allow decision makers to plan for and prioritize future investments. GAO concludes by recommending that, in defining such a roadmap for the ISE, the Program Manager should ensure that relevant initiatives are leveraged, incremental costs are defined, and an Enterprise Architecture (EA) program management plan is established that defines how EA management practices and content will be addressed.
Since the release of its first reports, recommending a virtual reengineering of government through information sharing, the Markle Task Force has monitored and supported the implementation of an information sharing environment across government and across threats. Learn more about Markle’s work on information sharing and our views how to move forward.