Agencies get better at ‘whole of government’ info sharing

Kshemendra Paul, Program Manager, Information Sharing Environment

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The head of the federal government’s information sharing initiative says agencies are doing a better job of sharing in a post-9/11 environment.

In addition to interagency sharing, another improvement has been greater sharing between local, state and federal entities, said Kshemendra Paul, program manager for the Information Sharing Environment, in an interview this week with The Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Emily Kopp.

The ISE was set up in 2004 as a way to prevent another 9/11. Paul said the organization is a “whole-of-government construct” that includes the federal government, state and local governments, the private sector and international communities.

(Federal News Radio file photo)
Prior to the 9/11 attacks, Mohammad Atta, one of the hijackers, was stopped by a police officer in Maryland. The police officer ran Atta’s name but “nothing came up,” Paul said.

“Why? Because the databases weren’t connected. The processes did not allow for effective sharing,” he said.

The federal government has adopted two technological frameworks for standardization. One, the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM) is a data model that sets standards and processes for information. The other framework is the Federal Identity, Credential and Access Management Roadmap, developed by the Federal Chief Information Officers Council.

ISE’s focus is anti-terrorism, but NIEM is now used in other areas, including human services, agriculture and cybersecurity, Paul said.

Another example of improvement is the creation of a national network of fusion centers in most urban areas that connects state and local law enforcement to federal law enforcement. Tied in with the centers is the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative — better known to most people as, “See something, say something.”

The challenge with the initiative was to encourage reporting but not cross the line of privacy and civil liberties. Paul said part of the intiative’s success has come from keeping stakeholders — including privacy and civil rights advocates — in the conversation.

The Homeland Security Department, the FBI, the Justice Department and state and local law enforcement developed 16 behaviors that were predictive of terrorism activity. The reporting based on these behaviors was tested at 12 fusion centers before it was rolled out to all others.

“Through that process, [we were] making sure we weren’t doing profiling but it was strongly behavior based and linked to an operational process,” Paul said.


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