Gorelick calls for more intell architecture work

A former 9-11 commissioner said progress in creating a comprehensive information architecture for the intelligence community has not been sufficient.

The architecture "has a technical component, which is how do you create a system for retrieving information gleaned from many agencies and, second, who is making the decisions about which individuals and agencies can have what information and under what circumstance," said Jamie Gorelick, who served on the 10-member commission formally known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.

Gorelick spoke with reporters after giving a keynote speech today at a homeland security conference sponsored by the E-Gov Institute. The institute is part of FCW Media Group, which publishes Federal Computer Week.

She said the sense of urgency is tremendous and there is no reason why technical solutions cannot be explored now. Gorelick said President Bush could direct government technology personnel at the relevant agencies to come up with a common architecture. "This thinking can take place in advance of the creation of a national intelligence director whose job it would be to carry out such a plan," she said. "And it may be that there are such steps being taken."

Federal officials are developing an enterprise architecture for the 15 relevant agencies to collect, analyze and exchange intelligence data by modifying a recently released data reference model portion of the federal enterprise architecture.

Echoing comments from her 9-11 Commission colleagues, Gorelick, who was a Justice Department official during the Clinton administration, said passage of an intelligence reform bill that creates an overarching national intelligence director and national counterterrorism center is vital to the country's security.

"If Congress doesn't pass this legislation in the next week before Congress adjourns, in the words of our chairman, Tom Kean, it will pass these reforms -- or something very much like them -- after the next attack," she said.

Although there is a great deal of support from President Bush, federal lawmakers and the public, the legislation is stuck in a conference committee comprised of Senate and House lawmakers. Several House members want immigration reforms included in the bill, while others said an intelligence director could hamper the delivery of critical intelligence to warfighters on the battlefield.

Negotiations are scheduled to begin again next week.

Although the bill isn't perfect, Gorelick said it was a good starting point and far superior to anything the president could do on his own.

She also said the overarching information infrastructure would allow greater collaboration with state and local governments as well as place greater accountability on federal officials.

"If you have a national intelligence director and a national counterterrorism center [director] whose job it is to ensure an effective across the board strategy, that strategy will include an effective relationship between the federal government and state and local government," Gorelick said. "Right now, there is no one looking across the board to make sure each of the agencies has an effective strategy in place and that they are carrying it out."

She also said a greater partnership among the federal government and the technology and private sectors is needed. She said company officials are tremendously frustrated when it comes to presenting their technologies and solutions to the government.

A number of mechanisms -- such as cross-departmental technology councils, one-stop shopping and triage offices -- help company officials navigate the federal process. Agency officials must examine how they can make government more accessible to the private sector.

But the frustration also comes from within government. Gorelick said she was recently talking with a Defense Department official who is doing research into a technology that would be useful at DOD, the FBI, the CIA and the Homeland Security Department.

"He was complaining that there is no way for the government agencies right now to agree among themselves on how to test the technology," she said. "It should be acquired uniformly because it's serving exactly the same need in each of these four agencies. I think there's a fair amount of frustration from within the government as well about the relationships with the private sector and their inability to relate effectively."

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