McNamara: Give info-sharing office more authority

The outgoing leader of the government office created to increase the sharing of terrorism-related information among federal, state and local officials thinks the office should have more authority.

Ambassador Thomas McNamara, whose last day as the Program Manager for the Information Sharing Environment (PM-ISE) was July 31, said on July 30 that the office should have budgetary authority and the ability to direct policy changes.

“The more authority you have, the more [agencies] pay attention,” McNamara told reporters after a hearing before the House Homeland Security Committee’s Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment Subcommittee.

The PM-ISE is working to remove policy and technology obstacles to interagency information sharing that experts have said were rampant before the terrorist attacks of September 2001. Subcommittee members praised McNamara during the hearing for the work he has done since he took over as PM-ISE in March 2006.

Congress called for the establishment of the PM-ISE as part of an intelligence reform law enacted in 2004. In 2006, then-President George W. Bush created the office as part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).

McNamara testified that his office has created a functioning, though still evolving, environment in which officials can share terrorism-related information. The effort is about halfway to full maturity, he said, adding that it has crossed a tipping point. He’s hopeful that the rest of the process will go more quickly.

There is an ongoing debate about whether the office should be relocated within the White House. In testimony, McNamara mentioned a memorandum to agency leaders from President Barack Obama’s assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism issues that described the administration as continuing to review information-sharing issues and prioritize the ISE at a senior level at the White House.

McNamara said a strong relationship with the White House was important, but the decision on where to put the PM-ISE was up to administration officials. He added that he’s had no problems with the support ODNI has given his office.

“I think it’s less important where it’s administratively located than the authorities, the policies and the role that it plays in developing the information-sharing environment,” McNamara said.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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