Bill aims for better info sharing at DHS

The new Democratic majority in Congress has a plan to improve information sharing within the Homeland Security Department as part of legislation submitted to implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations.

H.R. 1, the 9/11 Commission Recommendations Act of 2007, submitted by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) would enact several dozen antiterrorism recommendations made by the commission. These include recommendations regarding cargo screening, transportation security, critical infrastructure protection and the national incident management system.

The 23-section bill addresses several sections of IT-related items, including information sharing. The bill directs the Homeland Security secretary to integrate intelligence components of the department?ranging from the Transportation Security Administration, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other units?into a new information-sharing environment (ISE) to be administrated by the Homeland Security undersecretary for intelligence and analysis.

An ISE, as defined by the legislation, is an approach that facilities the sharing of terrorism information. The approach may include any methods determined necessary and appropriate for carrying out the intent of the legislation.

The legislation directs the secretary to appoint knowledge management officers, and establish an internal training program and business processes for information-sharing. It also requires that the establishment of a "comprehensive IT network architecture that will connect all of the databases within the Department of Homeland Security to each other, promoting internal information-sharing," according to a summary distributed by Thompson's office.

The legislation also would establish intelligence fusion centers in border states, specifically to enhance so-called border intelligence capabilities. It increases DHS' involvement in other state and local fusion centers, to provide them with intelligence, assistance and appropriate training.

DHS officials would be required to submit a plan within 90 days to prescreen airline passengers against no-fly lists. In addition, the department must submit a plan to implement biometric entry and exit programs for the U.S. Visitor & Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program. As of October 2006, those plans were still under review by the secretary's office, according to Thompson.

Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), the senior Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, accused the Democrats of falling short on their promise to enact the 9/11 commission's recommendations. He and other Republicans on the panel criticized the Democrats for not including several commission recommendations related to congressional oversight of homeland security and intelligence activities in their legislation, and declassifying the intelligence budget and transferring paramilitary operations to Defense Department oversight.

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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