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Challenges to Effective
homeland security issues. Our ongoing work includes evaluations of information sharing activities in homeland security, including reviews of airport and transportation security, seaport security and law enforcement agencies. However, as the committees are aware, GAO's work in evaluating the activities of the intelligence community historically has been limited, due in part to limitations imposed by the intelligence agencies and the small number of requests made by Congress. My statement today reflects this limitation on evaluations of the intelligence community and focuses more broadly on information sharing among various homeland security stakeholders.
In my testimony today, I will discuss (1) some of the challenges to effective
The success of a homeland security strategy relies on the ability of all levels
of government and the private sector to communicate and cooperate effectively with one another. Activities that are hampered by organizational fragmentation, technological impediments, or ineffective collaboration blunt the nation's collective efforts to prevent or minimize terrorist acts.
GAO and other observers of the federal government's organization, performance, and accountability for combating terrorism and homeland security functions have long recognized the prevalence of gaps, duplication, and overlaps driven in large part by the absence of a central policy focal point, fragmented missions, ineffective information sharing, human capital needs, institutional rivalries, and cultural challenges. In recent years, GAO has made numerous recommendations related to changes necessary for improving the government's response to combating terrorism.' Prior to the establishment of the Office of Homeland Security (OHS), GAO found that the federal government lacked overall homeland security leadership and management accountable to both the President and Congress. GAO has also stated that fragmentation exists in both coordination of domestic preparedness programs and in efforts to develop a national strategy."
GAO believes that the consolidation of some homeland security functions makes sense and will, if properly organized and implemented, over time lead to more efficient, effective, and coordinated programs, better information sharing, and a more robust protection of our people, borders, and critical infrastructure. At the same time, even the proposed Department of Homeland Security (DHS), will still be just one of many players with important roles and responsibilities for ensuring homeland security. In addition, the creation of DHS will not be a panacea. It will create certain new costs and risks, which must be addressed.
As it is with so many other homeland security areas, it is also the case for intelligence and information sharing that there are many stakeholders who must work together to achieve common goals. Effective analysis, integration, and dissemination of intelligence and other information critical to homeland security requires the involvement of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National Security Council (NSC), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Department of Defense (DOD), and a myriad of other agencies, and will also include the
'U.S. General Accounting Office, Combating Terrorism: Selected Challenges and Related Recommendations, GAO-01-822 (Washington, D.C.: September 2001).
U.S. General Accounting Office, Combating Terrorism: Comments on Counterterrorism
"U.S. General Accounting Office, Homeland Security: Critical Design and Implementation Issues, GAO 0-957T (Washington, D.C.: July 17, 2002).
proposed DHS. State and local governments and the private sector also have critical roles to play - as do significant portions of the international community. Information is already being shared between and among numerous government and private sector organizations and more can be done to facilitate even greater sharing, analyzing, integrating, and disseminating of information.
We have observed fragmentation of information analysis and sharing functions potentially requiring better coordination in many homeland security areas. For example, in a recent report on critical infrastructure protection (CIP), we indicated that some 14 different agencies or components had responsibility for analysis and warning activities for cyber CIP. Our recent testimony on aviation security indicated that the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), FBI and the Department of State all need the capacity to identify aliens in the United States who are in violation of their visa status, have broken U.S. laws, or are under investigation for criminal activity, including terrorism. GAO has also noted that information sharing coordination difficulties can occur within single departments, such as those addressed in our July 2001 review of FBI intelligence investigations and coordination within the Department of Justice. Procedures established by the Attorney General in 1995 required, in part, that the FBI notify the Criminal Division and the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review whenever a foreign counterintelligence investigation utilizing authorized surveillance and searches develops "...facts or circumstances...that reasonably indicate that a significant federal crime has been, is being, or may be committed...." However, according to Criminal Division officials, required notifications did not always occur and often, when they did, were not timely. The Attorney General and the FBI issued additional procedures to address the coordination concerns and ensure compliance, but these efforts have not been institutionalized.
'U.S. General Accounting Office, Critical Infrastructure Protection: Federal Efforts Require a More Coordinated and Comprehensive Approach for Protecting Information Systems, GAO-02-474 (Washington, D.C.: July 15, 2002).
'U.S. General Accounting Office, Aviation Security: Transportation Security Administration Faces Immediate and Long-Term Challenges, GAO-02-971T (Washington, D.C.: July 25, 2002).
*U.S. General Accounting Office, FBI Intelligence Investigations: Coordination Within Justice on Counterintelligence Criminal Matters Is Limited, GAO-01-780 (Washington, D.C.: July 2001).
This country has tremendous resources at its disposal, including leading
'U.S. General Accounting Office, National Preparedness: Integrating New and Existing Technology and Information Sharing into an Effective Homeland Security Strategy, GAO02-811T (Washington, D.C.. June 7, 2002).
*XML is the universal format for structured documents and data on the Web that makes it easy for a computer to generate data, read data, and ensure that the data structure is unambiguous. XML avoids common pitfalls in language design: It is extensible, platformindependent, and supports internationalization and localization. XML is a flexible, nonproprietary set of standards for annotating or "tagging" information so that it can be transmitted over a network and readily interpreted by disparate systems. For more information on its potential use for electronic government initiatives, see U.S. General Accounting Office, Electronic Government. Challenges to Effective Adoption of the Extensible Markup Language, GAO-02-327 (Washington, D.C.: April 2002).
"U.S. General Accounting Office, Information Technology: Enterprise Architecture Use Across the Federal Government Can Be Improved, GAO-02-6 (Washington, D.C.: February 2002).
Ineffective collaboration among homeland security stakeholders remains one of the principal impediments to integrating and sharing information in order to prevent and minimize terrorist attacks. The committees' joint inquiry staff's initial report detailing numerous examples of strategic information known by the intelligence community prior to September 11th highlights the need to better ensure effective integration, collaboration, and dissemination of critical material." The joint inquiry staff's report focuses on the national intelligence community, but its implications are clearly evident for all homeland security stakeholders – government at all levels, as well as the private sector, must work closely together to analyze, integrate, and appropriately disseminate all useful information to the relevant stakeholders in order to combat terrorism and make the nation more secure.
GAO recognizes that this goal is easier to articulate than achieve and that some long-standing obstacles to improving information sharing between and among stakeholders at all levels will require significant changes in organizational cultures, shifts in patterns of access to and limitations on information, and improved processes to facilitate communication and interaction.
GAO's ongoing work illuminates some of the issues. For instance, officials
Non federal officials tend to echo these concerns. Since September 11th,
U.S. Congress, House and Senate Select Intelligence Committees, Joint Inquiry Staff