The tech challenge

While they’re busy sorting through the policy issues, fusion center advocates are also confronting technical challenges associated with improving access, connectivity and sharing data across classified
and unclassified data platforms.

Officials at fusion centers have access to a series of sensitive but unclassified information sharing platforms: the FBI’s Law Enforcement Online (LEO), the Homeland Security Department’s Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN) and DHS’ Regional Information Sharing Systems (RISS). The classified Homeland Secure Data Network and the FBI Network are also available for approved users at some locations.

John Cohen, a senior adviser to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s program manager for the Information Sharing Environment, said federal authorities plan to deploy the secret platforms to most state and local fusion centers by the end of 2008. Those systems will give states and local organizations access to secret information from the National Counterterrorism Center, as the Bush administration’s 2007 National Strategy for Information Sharing specifies.

Officials are also hopeful that LEO, RISS and HSIN will all soon be fully interconnected. Then users of the unclassified networks can log on to the platforms without signing in multiple times.
LEO is primarily for law enforcement users, while HSIN is more general, and state and local authorities run RISS.

DHS’ work on HSIN Next-Gen, the department’s national collaborative platform for information sharing, is receiving close inspection. Government auditors, DHS’ inspector general and lawmakers have criticized the first version of HSIN for not fully meeting users’ needs.

DHS officials plan to launch the new platform to different sectors in 12 to 18 months. Officials hope that the new unclassified information-sharing platform will encourage increased use.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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