The American Recovery and Investment Act is infusing $2.7 billion in funds to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), but that is both the good news and the bad news. Along with the stimulus money comes increased reporting demands and enhanced transparency requirements as well as an obligation to quickly pump the money into the economy. Distributing the funds must occur while ensuring quality contracting, good business practices and flawless spending. Not only will the agencies receiving the funds have additional administrative burdens, but industry will also have new reporting requirements in any contracts receiving these funds, related Richard Gunderson, acting chief procurement officer, DHS.
Intelligence Community Directive 501 served as the focal point bringing together a constructive dialog among intelligence experts who discussed the standards that their agencies must meet to share information in a panel on intelligence sharing at the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference. Once again, governance was fingered as the biggest issue being faced. Excellent leadership is needed to change the culture and to gradually change the organization. Policy guidelines must show that information sharing is the normal course. What should not be shared should be by exception, said Vance Hitch, Chief Information Officer, Department of Justice. "We need a Google for cops and a Google for intelligence agents," he added.
Infrastructure protection has many elements, but the first step is determining what we need to protect. According to William Flynn, director, Protective Security Coordination Division at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), "We know what is important to government, but we have to understand what the interdependencies are." From the data collection angle, infrastructure protection has made quantum leaps, and the ability to analyze the data also has come a long way, he explained.
After September 11, 2001, the United States committed to stopping Al Qaeda, and within a year the terrorist organization was operationally frozen. But the fallout from smashing this bureaucratically structured group led to a new franchised version, with the organization now reaching out to other smaller groups and providing training and support.
The biggest challenge the Department of Homeland Security faces is not the technology but governance, according to Margie Graves, the deputy chief information officer there. The department must manage many large and complex components resulting from bringing together 22 agencies, and it is still sorting some of that out. The goal is for central governance with distributed execution. The enterprise solutions that are replacing the stovepiped architecture of the individual agencies are making this possible.
Nearly every homeland security activity begins at the local level, so coordination is imperative between homeland security and law enforcement entities. As a result, all relevant organizations need an intelligence component, including fire departments, public health agencies and private sector entities.
Representatives from the U.S. Defense Department's homeland defense arm and the U.S. Coast Guard wrapped up Wednesday's dialogues during AFCEA's Homeland Security conference by explaining their contributions to homeland security. While these discussions generally refer to the "Post-9/11 World," this panel focused instead on the "Post-Katrina World" and the improvements that have taken place in communications and coordination.
While AFCEA's Homeland Security conference's first panel focused on issues related to illegal immigrants and customs and border protection, members of Wednesday afternoon's discussion forum explained how uncovering immigration status violations currently is achieved using existing systems.
While Homeland Security conference attendees enjoyed their lunch, a panel of representatives from various government agencies shared their insights about how their organizations support the homeland security effort. Initiatives are underway that will boost protection endeavors by making more information available and easing the information-sharing workload.
Increase in activity mandates technical and process solutions.