Lawmakers blast DHS' efforts to share intell with state, local partners

House Democrats worry that the Homeland Security Department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) has not made sufficient progress in sharing information with its state and local partners—a focus of the sweeping counter-terrorism legislation that became law last year.

They are particularly concerned about the progress the office has made in managing the Interagency Threat Assessment and Coordination Group (ITACG), whose creation was mandated in the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act last summer. ITACG gained initial operating capability Jan. 30 to help support the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) produce federally coordinated terrorism information products for use by state, local and tribal law enforcement officials.

Through the ITACG, state, local and tribal officials are detailed to work at the NCTC to enture terrorism-related information products are useful to non-federal partners.

“I have a major issue with I&A’s endless refusal to take the ITACG seriously and to build a robust state, local and tribal presence at the NCTC that makes the intelligence production process for state and locals better,” said Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the House Homeland Security Committee’s Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment Subcommittee, in a statement for a Feb. 26 hearing.

The subcommittee held the hearing to discuss the state of I&A and aspects of the president’s 2009 budget request.

“I don’t see how the proposed 9 percent increase in new funding for your office and the Office of Operations Coordination will help you satisfy those new obligations, such as developing and managing the ITACG to its full potential,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the full committee's chairman, in a statement he prepared for the hearing’s original date, Feb. 14.

At the hearing, lawmakers questioned Charles Allen, DHS’ undersecretary for intelligence and analysis, on his progress in organizing DHS’ intelligence apparatus.

He said that I&A had made significant progress in recent years.

“ITACG is very vital but there is a whole range of issues that we have to address and I think we’ve done a good job in two years,” Allen said after the hearing. “I think we’ve done a good job. Obviously [Harman] is getting different information. Certainly we are going to go back to the advisory group, we’re going to go back to the people working on ITACG and see what can be done.”

He said in his written statement that DHS had made progress in improving information sharing through consolidations to its unclassified and classified networks and making them more accessible and usable by state and local partners. And he cited efforts to create a virtual analytic community-of-interest for state and locals on DHS’ unclassified Homeland Security Information Network-Intelligence.

But Harman blasted I&A for what she said were previous attempts to scuttle ITACG and engage in turf wars.

She said that requests from DHS regarding the establishment of ITACG had made clear that the department wanted control over which information should be disseminated to state and local governments and that it wants ITACG to go away eventually.

“Let me be clear. The ITACG is NOT going away,” she said in her statement.

“It is absolutely critical that as we move forward we break down stovepipes, we change what has been called a need-to-know culture to a need-to-share culture fully respecting the need to protect sources and methods,” she added during the hearing.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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