Plan for sharing terrorism information finally arrives

The ISE Implementation Plan

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Well past the initial deadline, and after heavy pressure from both senators and the Government Accountability Office, National Intelligence Director John Negroponte has finally delivered an implementation plan for an Information Sharing Environment (ISE) to Congress.

The ISE is intended to make it easier for federal agencies and state, local and tribal governments to access and share terrorism-related information.

An implementation plan for the ISE was due within one year of the signing of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. But a GAO report in April found that the government still lacked processes and policies on how to improve such information sharing and that more than half of the 26 agencies it reviewed had problems sharing information.

In September, a bipartisan group of senators berated Negroponte for not producing the implementation plan, saying “turf battles and agency infighting” should not be allowed to stymie the efforts in formulating it.

The document describes a three-year plan that will be carried out in two phases. 

The first, to be completed by June 2007, focuses on preliminary actions needed, such as identifying existing or emerging technologies that can be adopted for the ISE and defining the various processes and standards that will be used. That period will also be used to define core training modules that will act as an “educational baseline” for the ISE.

The second phase will run two years, through June 2009, and will involve the actual implementation of the technologies, processes and standards identified in the first phase. Current and new employees who handle terrorism-related information should be fully trained, and agencies should have modified their internal policies to accommodate ISE requirements.

Overall, the plan contains nearly 100 short-term and long-term actions that Negroponte’s office believes must be accomplished to improve the sharing of terrorism information.

The plan also makes what it calls four major recommendations:

  • Deferring further expansion of the ISE to include additional intelligence information beyond that initially identified as necessary until the policies, business practices and systems used for it are mature enough to evaluate the impact of such an expansion.
  • Continuing the position of the ISE program manager for the full three years of the plan.
  • Having the president submit the first ISE performance report to Congress at the end of June 2007.
  • Granting the ISE program manager governmentwide authority to issue procedures, guidelines, functional standards and instructions for management, development and operation of the ISE.

However, in a foreword to the plan, ISE Program Manager Thomas McNamara warns that its contents should not be considered as set in stone, and that it should also be considered in concert with other anti-terrorism efforts such as the National Implementation Plan and the National Infrastructure Protection Plan.

“We are all realistic enough to know we will need to be flexible over the coming three years as we carry out our work,” he said. “This recognition is reflected in the limited (three-year) period covered by the plan, and in the specificity for the first year and more general planning for the final years.”

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.


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