Information Sharing Key to Homeland Security
by Lawrence P. Farrell, Jr.
The business of national defense is changing before our eyes, in
ways that we never would have predicted just over a year ago. National
defense today can no longer be defined in traditional terms. The
rules of the game have changed, resulting in the need to write a
new playbook. For those in the business of national security, the
implications of these new rules are far-reaching, to say the least.
One key reality that has emerged in the post 9/11 world is that
national defense no longer means just the Defense Department or
the military services. A host of “new” players are acquiring
highly visible roles in U.S. anti-terrorism efforts—such as
the Transportation Department and the Federal Aviation Administration.
Agencies that perform intelligence collection and analysis, meanwhile,
are re-evaluating and expanding their mission scope. Also, “old”
players, such as the Coast Guard, which has been in the national
security business for centuries, are now gaining well-deserved recognition
and a more defined role in homeland protection.
Altogether, about 100 federal entities are charged with responsibilities
related to homeland security. One key to their success will be how
they share intelligence and the information developed from that
intelligence. This will be critical to detection, analysis and preemption.
But, as we know, new agencies—as well as existing ones with
new missions—tend to stove-pipe their activities, especially
with respect to information. It is important to counter this tendency
and to promote collaborative sharing of information.
President Bush understands this need quite well. The White House
Web site, for example, (www.whitehouse.gov/homeland/21st-technology.html)
prominently promotes the concept of “Information to Secure
the Homeland.” A stated objective is to tear down unwarranted
information stovepipes within the government and to share homeland
security information with states, localities and key contractors.
This is an ambitious undertaking. Fortunately, we have an abundance
of advanced networking technology in the private sector that makes
information sharing relatively simple. The challenge, therefore,
is not in the technology, but in setting up the right organizational
structures for defense and intelligence, and protocols for sharing
and collaborating. That is an issue widely debated on Capitol Hill
as Congress completes legislation to create the Department of Homeland
Security and considers the overall placement of intelligence agencies.
Not only will the Department of Homeland Security have to integrate
22 different agencies, but it will also have to work with a new
combatant command for homeland defense—the U.S. Northern Command,
or NORTHCOM, which will be up and running this month.
NORTHCOM will be devoted to defending the people and territory
of the United States against external threats and to coordinating
the provision of U.S. military forces to support civil authorities.
The Defense Department, additionally, plans to establish a new
assistant secretary office for homeland defense, to ensure internal
coordination of Pentagon policy direction, provide guidance to the
Northern Command and work with the Department of Homeland Security.
The need for information sharing and coordination will be huge.
There is a danger that, if the government is not careful, the White
House, the Defense Department and the new agencies for homeland
defense will end up creating new stove-pipes. That would be bad
The flow of information among agencies must be seamless. After
all, our enemies have become quite astute at exploiting seams, when
they see them.
To create that seamless environment for interagency collaboration,
it is important to have clearly defined protocols. We will need
these protocols, on the one hand, for contractors to figure out
how to build the networks so that the right people have access to
the right information. The protocols also will guide federal government
officials in defining organizational responsibilities.
Further, the nation cannot afford for any one federal agency to
spend millions of dollars on information systems that are stove-piped
and thus out of reach to other organizations tasked with homeland
But the seamless web of information will not come cheap. Just moving
agencies around to create the Homeland Security Department is expected
to cost $3 billion. That does not include any technological upgrades.
At NDIA, we are spearheading a number of programs to promote information
sharing and collaboration, using the advanced tools that our industry
has developed. Our affiliate organization, AFEI (Association for
Enterprise Integration) is actively working with federal agencies
and the top companies in the industry to help bring about the seamless
environment that our nation needs to solidify our homeland security
efforts. AFEI also has a subordinate division, devoted to C4ISR
issues, that directly addresses the war-fighting aspects of information
use and management.
AFEI is pursuing two aspects of information sharing. One is network-centric
warfare, a concept advocated by the Pentagon’s Office of Force
Transformation. Network-centric warfare can be defined as the collaborative
sharing of information for military operations. The second aspect
is enterprise integration, the collaborative sharing of information
for business operations. In both instances, information bridges
traditional seams in order to bring common data to disparate entities,
as they collaborate toward the same overall objective.
Industry has the technology to make collaborative information sharing
a reality. It is up to the government and the many agencies engaged
in national defense to take advantage of it. NDIA intends to vigorously
promote cultural change to support transformation in the military
and business sectors, as well as information sharing in support
of our national and allied interests.
I encourage you to contact AFEI or our C4ISR Division if you are
interested in joining the leaders who are transforming our approach
to national security.