DHS touts intell advances

The Homeland Security Department has become increasingly involved in analyzing and disseminating intelligence information, work that until a few years ago was handled exclusively by the well-established acronyms of the intelligence community — the FBI, CIA and NSA (National Security Agency).

DHS’ role expanded in 2005 with the formation of  the agency’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A), part of an extensive reorganization to improve the department’s alignment and to better integrate it into the larger intelligence community and national security structure. Officials say they have made progress in improving information sharing and analysis since I&A’s formation. However, some lawmakers and observers say I&A does not collaborate well enough with state and local authorities.

Bolstering state and local information sharing is one of the office’s primary duties, but I&A also supports the department’s operational efforts and works in the larger, 16-agency intelligence community.
DHS’ efforts center on border security, critical infrastructure, movement of biological and radioactive materials, migration patterns and radicalization of potential terrorists. 

CIA intelligence veteran Charles Allen, DHS’ undersecretary for intelligence and analysis, said he is proud of the progress his office has made in sharing information with state and local authorities and the private sector. I&A leads federal involvement in state and local intelligence fusion centers where, at more than 50 locations around the country, authorities from all levels of government share information related to terrorism.

Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Homeland Security Committee’s Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment Subcommittee, has been particularly vocal about what she sees as I&A’s reluctance  to fully include state and local authorities in the National Counterterrorism Center’s Interagency Threat Assessment and Coordinating Group. That organization strives to produce federally coordinated terrorism information in the forms that are most useful to state, local and tribal law enforcement officials.

Frank Cilluffo, director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University, said at an April 24 hearing held by Harman’s committee that I&A could improve information sharing by producing regional threat assessments and strengthening state and local analytical capacity through increased training opportunities.

Allen said DHS has produced thousands of Homeland Intelligence Reports, which share I&A’s operational reporting and trend analyses.

Clark Kent Ervin, a former DHS inspector general who now leads the Homeland Security Initiative at the Aspen Institute, a Washington think tank, said DHS’ standing in the intelligence community has risen under Allen’s leadership. He added that although complaints persist about the department not sharing information quickly enough and offering data that is sometimes too vague, users of I&A’s reports are finding them more timely, informative and useful than they did in the past. 

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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