Homeland not so secure as long as DHS can't share information

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U.S. Capitol security

Charles Dharapak/AP

The Department of Homeland Security might not be fast enough in responding to security threats if it doesn’t improve information sharing among the agencies it oversees, according to a report released by the agency’s inspector general.

When then President George W. Bush announced creation of the department in 2001, its first priority was to “take the strongest possible precautions against terrorism by bringing together the best information and intelligence.”

Nearly 10 years later, there is no department-wide policy about sharing information, which has led to confusion among some of the department’s agencies—including the Secret Service, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Transportation Security Administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement—about what they can share with each other.

The department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis is responsible for “establishing a unified, coordinated, and integrated intelligence program for the department,” according to the report. While the office has convened councils, boards and a task force to gather agency heads for discussions of information sharing, it has not yet developed an overarching policy.

The report also indicates that a lack of oversight from the office has led agencies to create their own systems for individual missions that are not necessarily compatible with systems created by other agencies.

Beyond a policy on sharing information with each other, agencies say they’d like the office to serve as a central clearinghouse for intelligence information that analysts could turn to when making decisions.

The report’s recommendations, which are heavily redacted, include calls for a policy that clearly delineates the role of the office and the creation of improved intelligence systems for better sharing of information.

In an e-mailed response to questions about the report, the press office said it will soon be releasing a management directive to help agencies “develop robust mechanisms for sharing intelligence information across the Department.” It did not indicate how soon the directive will be released.

FAST FACT: When first created, the Department of Homeland Security combined all or part of 22 different federal departments and agencies.

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