Federal information sharing environment needs work, GAO says

The federal Information-Sharing Environment has been deployed primarily in only two areas -- homeland security and local law enforcement -- and much work is needed in incorporating foreign affairs and intelligence, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office.

The data-sharing environment was authorized as a primary terrorism-prevention tool under the intelligence reform law of 2004. It is operated by an appointed program manager, along with the Defense, Homeland Security, Justice and State departments and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The environment was intended to cover five domains -- homeland security, law enforcement, defense, foreign affairs, and intelligence.


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However, most work has occurred in the homeland security and law enforcement areas, among federal, state and local agencies, the GAO said in its July 22 report.

Future work on the environment ought to encompass the other domains more fully, the GAO recommended.

“To date, the ISE [Information-Sharing Environment] has primarily focused on the homeland security and law enforcement communities and related sharing between the federal government and state and local partners, to align with priorities the White House established for the ISE,” the report said. “It will be important that all relevant agency initiatives -- such as those involving the foreign affairs and intelligence communities--are leveraged by the ISE to enhance information sharing governmentwide.”

Other unfinished business includes completing a plan to transition to the final architecture of the environment and identifying costs necessary to implement those plans, the report said.

The report makes three recommendations for improvement, and the ISE program manager’s office agreed with the recommendations.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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