Portal consolidation to improve DHS' info sharing

The Homeland Security Department is consolidating more than 100 aging Web portals, including the sensitive but unclassified (SBU) network that state and local authorities use to share information related to terrorism.

Officials said they hope to merge the portals into one enterprise collaboration and SBU portal environment, which will improve the department's ability to share information.

In an internal memo dated Oct. 27, 2007, Paul Schneider, DHS' undersecretary for management, said that if DHS did not reconcile the decentralized Web environment that causes duplicative investments, the trust that the administration and people place in the department would be compromised and the agency's performance would be adversely affected.

Schneider said the new environment will replace the existing SBU Homeland Security Information Network platform, which many state and local intelligence fusion centers and first responders use to share information with DHS.

"The efforts to develop a next generation of HSIN is not a dramatic departure from the current version of HSIN, rather this effort is intended to improve overall information sharing capabilities," said Larry Orluskie, a DHS spokesman.

One federal official with knowledge of the project said DHS should use HSIN to meet the needs not being met by other SBU portals that state and local officials use to share information with federal authorities.

"HSIN must serve the private sector or first responders or others that need access to this type of information," the official said.

John Cohen, a senior adviser at the Information Sharing Environment, said his agency has been in contact with DHS about HSIN's need to evolve.

"We are very comfortable with the fact that DHS will upgrade HSIN," Cohen said.

The next generation of HSIN will first be deployed to the most critical users and then DHS will begin to consolidate the existing portals onto the new environment. Schneider's memo states that at the end of the rollout process, the SBU portal environment will provide a federated content management structure and enhance information sharing and visibility.

The memo also orders all DHS components to cease the development of any new portals unless they get approval from the agency's chief information officer. DHS does not anticipate that the consolidation will cost any additional money, according to the memo.

Ben Bain and Jason Miller write for Federal Computer Week, an 1105 Government Information Group publication.

About the Authors

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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