DHS to retool info-sharing network

The Homeland Security Department is forming an advisory panel to help improve its underused information-sharing network, which links the department to state and local agencies, according to a Federal Register notice.

Public comments on the proposal are to be submitted by Dec. 19.

The Homeland Security Information Network Advisory Committee will have up to 20 representatives from state and local governments and industry to ensure that DHS knows the network's users needs and requirements.

The secure, unclassified network connects DHS with police, fire and emergency departments throughout the country. It received about $21 million in federal funding this year.

DHS Inspector General Richard Skinner criticized the network in June for its ineffectiveness and for failing to attract regular users. Skinner said the department had hurried deployment without obtaining enough opinions from users on how to structure its connections to best meet everyone's needs.

Also absent were clear policies and procedures and adequate training and, as a result, there is a lack of trust among users, the IG said.

"Users are confused and frustrated," Skinner said, and state and local officials are avoiding the network and are using telephones instead.

DHS created the network in 2003 as an outgrowth of the Joint Regional Information Exchange System, which had been established by California and New York police departments and federal intelligence agents. After expanding to 50 states, the network split off from the regional information exchange in mid-2005.

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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