States feel info blitz

States are still receiving homeland security alerts from far too many federal sources, and it might be some time before the Homeland Security Department is able to fix that situation, officials said today.

Homeland security cyber and physical alerts officially come out of DHS, but the FBI is still issuing separate alerts to law enforcement. That forces state-level officials to combine information before determining how to react, said George Newstrom, chief information officer for Virginia and chairman of the Security Committee of the National Association of State CIOs.

In addition, officials have found themselves chasing down and needing to combine warnings provided to program- and function-specific offices within the states by other federal civilian agencies, including the Agriculture Department, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Transportation Department, Newstrom said.

"There is still fragmentation," he said, testifying before a joint hearing of the House Homeland Security Select Committee's Cybersecurity, Science, and Research and Development Subcommittees on Infrastructure and Border Security.

States will have to work out some sort of system, however, said Robert Liscouski, assistant secretary for infrastructure protection within DHS' Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate at the hearing. There is now a formal process to ensure that the alerts are coordinated, but there will continue to be separate alerts from DHS and the FBI for the foreseeable future, he said.

The alerts from other agencies are a problem that DHS is attempting control. The department is using its authority over homeland security-related activities at other agencies provided by Homeland Security Presidential Directive 7 to first make sure that all the alerts are coordinated, and later to attempt to combine them, Liscouski said.

"We're working on articulating the rules of the road, not just the lanes of the road," he said.

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