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Reforms after 9/11 focused on reorganization and transformation of the IC, as well as improving information sharing both between federal agencies and with the critically important state and local agencies (Ackerman G. , 2020). It is important to note, however, that those reforms did not remove all the barriers to information sharing (Ackerman G. , 2020). Although the “wall” got removed between law enforcement and intelligence agencies, many challenges remain (Ackerman G. , 2020). The mentality of secrecy and organizational cultures that emphasize institutional equities are still substantial impediments to effective sharing (Ackerman G. , 2020).

Obstacles and challenges hindering useful information and intelligence sharing include legal, procedural, technical, and bureaucratic impediments (Ackerman G. , 2020). For example, just the lack of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between agencies can keep officials from sharing what common sense would say should be shared (Ackerman G. , 2020). The 9/11 Commissioners called on government agencies to discard the mentality of over-classifying information and sharing only with those who “need to know” to transform the culture into one where the emphasis is on sharing with all of those essential to securing the nation (Ackerman G. , 2020).

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The U.S. intelligence community is in a race against international adversaries, and to win, it must link diverse data systems and information processes so that experts can learn enemy intentions and plans before disaster strikes (Ackerman R. K., 2003). This race toward horizontal integration of intelligence has a two-pronged thrust that encompasses both data exchange at the collection level and information exchange at various levels of command and civil government decision making (Ackerman R. K., 2003).

The intelligence community is taking some of the same steps to achieve horizontal integration that has been taken by the U.S. Defense Department to ensure interoperability among military communications systems (Ackerman R. K., 2003). The community has committed to building in horizontal integration for all future intelligence systems at the onset of design (Ackerman R. K., 2003). However, these new intelligence systems with built-in horizontal integration will not get deployed for as long as ten years (Ackerman R. K., 2003). Meanwhile, new and legacy systems must get integrated during the interim decade. Moreover, this technology fix does not solve the problem of cultural and policy barriers that must be overcome to achieve true horizontal integration (Ackerman R. K., 2003).

Charles E. Allen is the assistant director of central intelligence for collection at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Langley, Virginia. An intelligence official for more than 40 years, Allen also heads or serves on intelligence boards that are focusing on how to break down long-standing barriers to efficient and effective intelligence transfer at various levels (Ackerman R. K., 2003). He believes that horizontal integration must occur across both technologies and disciplines—and as quickly as possible (Ackerman R. K., 2003).

“The need for horizontal integration is very urgent,” he declares. “I believe not only that the threat to this country over the next decade and beyond requires us to do this—to become a more effective and efficient intelligence community—but also that we are going to be advised by the Congress that it expects this community to become more integrated and more collaborative (Ackerman R. K., 2003).” This integration is relatively complex, Allen observes. It involves communications, multilevel security, and systems engineering as well as upstream tasks such as collection management, collection tasking, cross-platform tasking, and automatic cueing. It also includes downstream tasks such as data storage, data fusion, multi-INT all-source analysis, and use of collaborative tools (Ackerman R. K., 2003).

Allen relates that CIA Director George Tenet recently emphasized that his highest priorities across the intelligence community are horizontal integration and collaborative data sharing (Ackerman R. K., 2003). The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the CIA, and the National Security Agency (NSA) are now sharing data effectively and efficiently. That success must be translated into other areas to provide intelligence for targeting purposes rapidly and efficiently to the military services (Ackerman R. K., 2003).

The services and the unified combatant commands are working with the intelligence community to solve the problem, Allen reports (Ackerman R. K., 2003). Recent meetings have laid out a beginning framework for the next 12 to 18 months. The community is in the early stages of forming a horizontal integration senior steering group that will extend across the community, including defense intelligence issues. As yet, no horizontal integration architecture has gotten established, and Allen doubts that the community ever will have any architecture “that we can sketch out easily (Ackerman R. K., 2003).” Planners do have a broad vision of what is needed, and they are forming interagency teams of defense and intelligence experts to help shape their goals over the next year (Ackerman R. K., 2003).

Consequently, little attention was paid to interoperability across the various disciplines and intelligence agencies. Now, the current diverse threat requires collaboration and information sharing in ways that never were even envisioned before the September 11, 2001, attacks. Challenges such as weapons proliferation, rogue states, and ungoverned areas have emerged to fill the vacuum left by the demise of the monolithic adversary.

These severe threats existed well before 2001, and the United States should have anticipated them, Allen asserts. Instead, the intelligence community was constrained by funding limitations and personnel departures throughout the 1990s. As the community began building more advanced technical systems, it became well aware that the complexity of today’s problems requires cross-discipline action, cross-cueing, and multiple-source access, to name a few aspects (Ackerman R. K., 2003).

After the September 11 attacks, many underlying problems got exposed (Ackerman R. K., 2003). Allen relates that the community found that it still had legacy systems that were not operating in conjunction with each other (Ackerman R. K., 2003). Difficulties arose in data fusion and data sharing (Ackerman R. K., 2003). Planners had talked about multilevel security systems, but no one took the risk of building them (Ackerman R. K., 2003).

Allen explains that the intelligence community has the means to ensure that horizontal integration is built into systems. The Horizontal Integration Senior Steering Group, which involves both the defense and intelligence communities, will review significant issues relating to systems integration. Other groups such as the National Intelligence Collection Board, which Allen runs, and the National Intelligence Analytic and Production Board, which is run by Mark Lowenthal, vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council and assistant director of central intelligence for analysis and production, ensure that systems focus on national needs and priorities.

The Mission Requirements Board that Allen co-chairs with Lowenthal have a secretariat that works with the community to develop the long-range requirements for systems acquisition five to 15 years ahead (Ackerman R. K., 2003). As systems come to the board for validation of national-level requirements, they are examined for how they fit within an overall intelligence community architecture and with Defense Department warfighting plans (Ackerman R. K., 2003). Allen likens this to the Defense Department’s Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) processes (Ackerman R. K., 2003). “My view is that we will have the mechanisms in place that will make this work,” Allen warrants. “I do not see how we can get it wrong in the future (Ackerman R. K., 2003).”

This build-in approach must become the norm for all future intelligence systems from the earliest aspects of planning and design. “In the future, I do not think any program manager and director of central intelligence, or any secretary of defense, will ever go build these systems in isolation,” Allen offers. “In the 1970s and 80s, and even into the 90s, we did this—and we did not always think how they would operate with other sensors and systems. We did not think of how we could cross-link the communications (Ackerman R. K., 2003).”

Allen notes that the community did not have the technology or the bandwidth that it has now (Ackerman R. K., 2003). The significant bandwidth expansion that underway now enables built-in horizontal integration capability (Ackerman R. K., 2003). “We will not have to collect wideband signals abroad and then fly them back with an aircraft in order to study them, to figure out what they are,” he says (Ackerman R. K., 2003). “Those days are going to be gone. We are going to be able to pull [information] back instantly or push information that we fuse out to even the lowest-level echelon in the military or to embassies around the world (Ackerman R. K., 2003).”

However, building in horizontal integration does not solve the problem of existing systems that lack the capability (Ackerman R. K., 2003). The community has many legacy systems that are not as integrated, nor planned to operate, with other systems as they should be, Allen admits (Ackerman R. K., 2003). So, a multitude of efforts underway aims to provide stopgap fixes that would allow diverse assets to exchange vital collection data (Ackerman R. K., 2003).

The National Intelligence Collection Board, which comprises all the senior managers of the intelligence community, looks at how collection assets are rated against a particularly high priority (Ackerman R. K., 2003). This group meets several times each week, and it uses “brute force” to build new business practices and break down stovepipe systems and cultural barriers, Allen allows (Ackerman R. K., 2003). Until recently, for example, the community had never considered how to integrate air-breathing platforms—manned or unmanned—with overhead national technical means systems, Allen states (Ackerman R. K., 2003). That is being done today, he says, and in the years to come, legacy systems will fade from view as the intelligence system becomes far more capable (Ackerman R. K., 2003).

Both the defense and intelligence communities must proceed with bandwidth implementation. This encompasses the Transformational Communications System, or TCS (SIGNAL, February, page 25), as well as other systems within the defense community. “To achieve horizontal integration, we have to be able to move various types of data rapidly,” Allen observes (Ackerman R. K., 2003).

Similarly, the intelligence community has not achieved the degree of information assurance that is needed. Multilevel security remains “an obstacle that bedevils us,” Allen allows (Ackerman R. K., 2003). The community must be able to move information from different collection sources rapidly from one collection discipline to another (Ackerman R. K., 2003). However, another need is collaborative tools that can filter through terabytes of data. Technical challenges loom for cross-linking satellite systems and for cross-linking space and air systems. Some of these efforts have funding, but additional funding must be appropriated for other aspects (Ackerman R. K., 2003).

“I believe we are on the cusp now of solving most of the technical problems, which will enable us to be more efficient as an intelligence community,” Allen affirms (Ackerman R. K., 2003). Even with all the attention paid to technology solutions, policies, and cultural issues are “by far” the biggest challenge facing horizontal integration, Allen states (Ackerman R. K., 2003). “I believe that policies, processes, culture, and so-called turf issues will be some of the more difficult and frustrating aspects of making this [horizontal integration] happen,” he declares (Ackerman R. K., 2003). The biggest problems lie in policies, especially those governing the sharing of data of varying classifications and collectors. However, Allen believes that these policy barriers can be overcome (Ackerman R. K., 2003).

“There are real problems in effectively managing across the agencies, across the various intelligence disciplines,” he continues. “There have been self-imposed barriers employed by many elements of the intelligence community—problems of sharing, problems of collaboration, problems of security. Some agencies find it difficult to share intelligence with others (Ackerman R. K., 2003).”

Lt. Gen. James Clapper, USAF (Ret.), director of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA), has been “out in front” on horizontal integration, according to Allen, particularly in following the January 2001 recommendations of the Independent Commission on NIMA. The commission’s approach is to use imagery as a pathfinder for integration with other disciplines to identify, locate, and target adversaries (Ackerman R. K., 2003). He states that Gen. Clapper has moved actively with other intelligence community agency heads to ensure that they all are working toward horizontal integration (Ackerman R. K., 2003).

Allen offers that “fairly phenomenal” progress has gotten made among intelligence community leaders since the September 11 attacks (Ackerman R. K., 2003). However, the community is not where it needs to be yet (Ackerman R. K., 2003). The FBI and the CIA formed the new Terrorist Threat Integration Center, and it reports to the director of central intelligence. Officials are still working out processes and procedures to share information more quickly across the community and to ensure that any threat information flows into this center and on into the Department of Homeland Security (Ackerman R. K., 2003). Allen admits that issues and problems remain, but he adds that a lot of the relevant data is flowing, and any threat data flows immediately regardless of the security classification (Ackerman R. K., 2003).

On an organizational level, sharing information among different intelligence agencies with strictly defined missions could run afoul of the law (Ackerman R. K., 2003). All work involving sharing and providing data is carefully reviewed and approved by legal advisers within the intelligence community and the Department of Homeland Security, Allen states (Ackerman R. K., 2003). This is explicitly done to protect the privacy and rights of U.S. citizens, he observes, adding that there is “a very rigorous application of the law,” ensuring that the line between foreign and domestic intelligence is not crossed (Ackerman R. K., 2003).

However, these safeguards run the risk of keeping some vital information isolated that could provide a piece of a puzzle for preventing a terrorist act. Allen affirms that “the enormous cooperation between the FBI and the CIA,” along with the establishment of the Terrorist Threat Intelligence Center, ensures that the right experts receive the necessary information rapidly (Ackerman R. K., 2003). However, not all of the issues of government information exchange have gotten solved, he adds (Ackerman R. K., 2003).

The National Network of Fusion Centers Strategy expires at the end of the year (Ackerman R. K., 2003). The Committee believes that the National Network, through the NFCA, should continue to periodically update its national strategy to define the goals and visions of the National Network clearly (Ackerman R. K., 2003). This strategy should address the current information-sharing challenges and reflect the evolving national security threats (Ackerman R. K., 2003).

Recommendation: The NFCA should prioritize the update of its national strategy, which is due to expire at the end of 2017, and develop a process to review and update it consistently (House Homeland Security Committee Majority Staff Report, 2017).

The Homeland Security Act of 2002 and Presidential Executive Order 13356 provided the impetus for a National effort to improve information sharing and defined the Department’s first role in this effort (DHS Editors, 2008). This role has been expanded and refined in subsequent statutes, such as the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, as amended (IRTPA). IRTPA ensured that DHS would have a central part in the Information Sharing Environment (ISE) (DHS Editors, 2008). Shortly after establishing the ISE, the President established the Office of the Program Manager for the Information Sharing Environment (PM-ISE) (DHS Editors, 2008). DHS works closely with the PM-ISE, currently under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), to coordinate the development of a standard National framework for information sharing (House Homeland Security Committee Majority Staff Report, 2017). DHS also has significant responsibilities concerning the National Response Framework, which outlines how information is to get shared in response to all incidents, including terrorist attacks and natural disasters (DHS Editors, 2008).

Guiding principles:

1. Fostering information sharing is a core DHS mission. Congress and the President have made it clear that one of the Department’s core missions is to create the technological and organizational infrastructure necessary to promote the sharing of information regarding terrorism, homeland security, law enforcement, weapons of mass destruction, and incidents of all types within DHS, across the Federal government, and with State, local, tribal, territorial, private sector and international partners,

2. DHS must use the established governance structure to make decisions regarding information sharing issues. The Secretary has established a governance structure dedicated to facilitating information sharing in a manner consistent with the law, including Federal privacy and civil rights laws. The Department must fully utilize this structure to achieve information sharing objectives,

3. DHS must commit sufficient resources to information sharing. DHS has taken significant steps, but substantial work remains – including new mandates from the President and Congress – to achieve the desired level of information sharing capability. Further success will require significant organizational resources throughout DHS and continued commitment by all DHS personnel,

4. DHS must measure progress toward information sharing goals. The Secretary has identified clear objectives in this arena. DHS must now institute performance measures that provide a realistic and actionable assessment of the Department’s progress toward meeting these objectives,

5. DHS must maintain information and data security and protect privacy and civil liberties. Achieving the Department’s information-sharing goals requires maximizing operational effectiveness while protecting privacy and civil liberties. The Office of General Counsel, the Privacy Office, the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, the ISGB and the ISCC will continue to work closely with DHS components on their information management processes to ensure that privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties, and other legal protections are fully respected and implemented (DHS Editors, 2008).

Critical Challenges

DHS continues to face barriers to information sharing.

As the 9/11 Commission emphasized, although technological issues exist, the primary challenge both within DHS and with external information-sharing partners is creating a widely accepted process for sharing mission-relevant information while adequately protecting the information (House Homeland Security Committee Majority Staff Report, 2017). Creating a broad foundation for information sharing requires trust between all information sharing partners. Lack of trust stems from fears that shared information will not be protected adequately or used appropriately; and, that sharing will not always occur in both directions (DHS Editors, 2008). For example, law enforcement and the intelligence community are concerned that competing information uses will compromise ongoing investigations, sources, and methods. State, local, territorial, tribal, and private sector partners are willing to share information with the Federal government but want assurances that information held at the Federal level will be shared adequately with them (DHS Editors, 2008).

The Department must emphasize mission-based information sharing that ensures the right information gets to the right people at the right time (DHS Editors, 2008). The many different missions of the Department and its information-sharing partners add complexity to defining mission-related information sharing needs (DHS Editors, 2008). Clearly defined and institutionalized rules, roles, and responsibilities are necessary to ensure effective information sharing (DHS Editors, 2008). The need for an information sharing environment to encompass and address these complexities has slowed the process of developing information-sharing protocols at the policy level even more than at the technological leve (DHS Editors, 2008)l. These complexities also have created challenges in identifying and appropriately distributing useful information to those who need it (DHS Editors, 2008).


To address critical challenges and to implement DHS Secretarial Objectives and Priorities for information sharing, DHS will strive to achieve the following:

1. Secure and maintain active participation in the ISCC by each DHS component, directorate, and office,

2. Fully coordinate DHS information policies, programs and projects with the ISE to promote sharing with Federal partners, while at the same time strongly advocating that the PM-ISE recognize and accommodate DHS mission needs, enterprise requirements, and solutions,

3. Build a robust set of Shared Mission Communities to identify mission-specific information-sharing opportunities and build trust, using the experience gained in establishing the Law Enforcement Shared Mission Community and in other endeavors,

4. Make the fusion centers an integral part of DHS and Federal information exchange with State, local, territorial, tribal, and private sector partners,

5. Fully recognize and integrate Federal, State, local, territorial, tribal, private sector and foreign government information needs as part of the DHS information sharing environment, consistent with applicable laws, regulations, and international agreements,

6. Ensure that DHS technology platforms evolve to facilitate appropriate mission-based information sharing with Federal, State, local, territorial, tribal, private sector, and foreign partners,

7. Ensure that mission-relevant information-sharing agreements are in effect with Federal, State, local, territorial, tribal, private sector, and foreign partners to promote information sharing consistent with the “One DHS” mandate. As DHS further develops its information-sharing standards, these standards principally will comply with the requirements of the ISE as promulgated by the PM-ISE, and with any other applicable standards as may be required by law (DHS Editors, 2008).

The following precepts will guide the development of DHS standards:

• The information needs and missions of all stakeholders, not technology, will drive the design of the DHS information sharing environment. Technology will get used to enhance and simplify information sharing,

• Information sharing technology and protocols will be cross-functional with various domains, information technology systems, and infrastructures to create a degree of interoperability with the systems utilized by the Department’s Federal, State, local, territorial, tribal, private sector and foreign partners,

• DHS standards and protocols will utilize or leverage published commercial standards and protocols when available and where appropriate, and

• DHS standards, procedures, and applicable laws for privacy and civil liberties will guide and support the DHS information sharing environment (DHS Editors, 2008).

Information Sharing Security and Privacy

DHS must ensure the security of the information collected and shared by the Department.

At the Federal level, statutory and other policy mandates such as the Privacy Act of 1974, the E-Government Act of 2002, the Homeland Security Act of 2002, the Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002 (FISMA), and Executive Order 12333 requires careful safeguarding of any information that personally identifies U.S. persons (DHS Editors, 2008). Executive Order 12958, as amended, defines the safeguarding requirements for classified national security information (DHS Editors, 2008). Other Federal regulations and individual department and agency policies set requirements for the various categories of sensitive but unclassified information. Besides, States and local jurisdictions have enacted privacy and data security laws (DHS Editors, 2008). Also, the private sector will always be concerned about protecting proprietary information and trade secrets, despite recently created safeguards. Finally, as the Department shares information with foreign partners, foreign laws and international agreements may also impose data security and privacy requirements (DHS Editors, 2008). The Department’s approach to information security will be threefold (DHS Editors, 2008).

The Department will:

• Develop robust information protection and data security protocols that comply with applicable laws, regulations, and agreements as a matter of policy,

• Devote sufficient resources to train DHS personnel and the Department’s information-sharing partners inappropriate security requirements, protocols, practices, and privacy and civil liberties standards, and

• Adopt technology solutions that support the appropriate level of information and data security and commit sufficient resources to the electronic and physical protection of information media. The threats to secure and reliable information sharing are numerous, potent, and persistent. DHS will pursue data security and privacy as primary elements of information sharing, such that these protections enhance and do not prevent or delay appropriate information exchange (DHS Editors, 2008).

Performance Measures

Spearheaded by the Information Sharing and Collaboration Branch (IS&C) within the Office of Intelligence & Analysis, and the ISCC, DHS is implementing a comprehensive approach to measuring the effectiveness of Departmental information sharing (DHS Editors, 2008). The IS&C has developed and continuously tracks milestones for each of the priorities under Secretarial Objective 13. The current milestones focus on building the institutional infrastructure that will enable DHS to create a secure and trusted environment necessary for information sharing (DHS Editors, 2008). As these milestones get achieved, the IS&C will create new benchmarks, coordinated through the ISCC, to move toward outcome-oriented measures that track the effectiveness of DHS information sharing (DHS Editors, 2008). In the fiscal year 2007, DHS included the first Departmental measure of information sharing in the Performance Budget Overview process. The ISCC will develop additional information sharing measures, tied to the Departmental budget and planning process, to ensure progress toward information sharing that meaningfully contributes to DHS mission outcomes (DHS Editors, 2008). As a member of the ISE, DHS will continue to assist the PM-ISE to design, baseline, validate, and refine information sharing performance metrics with an emphasis on the results of information sharing (DHS Editors, 2008). Through the ISCC, the IS&C will collect, compile, and submit data to the PM-ISE. DHS also will continue to monitor progress toward achievement of the goals set out in the National Intelligence Strategy and as articulated by the Director of National Intelligence in the “500 Day Plan (DHS Editors, 2008).”

Communication and Outreach

Formulating and promoting the DHS information sharing environment and the elements of this strategy will be an ongoing departmental effort (DHS Editors, 2008). A principle conduit for this effort will be the ISCC. The ISCC is developing a communications plan to disseminate information regarding this effort and to encourage participation within DHS and among external partners (DHS Editors, 2008). In crafting the communications plan, the ISCC will:

• Identify key audiences among internal and external stakeholders and partners,

• Develop messages that inform and educate,

• Solicit feedback and participation,

• Identify the most effective vehicles to deliver coordinated and useful messages and develop standardized procedures for communications, and

• Assess the status of our communications vehicles and identify improvement opportunities (DHS Editors, 2008).

Ackerman, G. (2020, July 5). INTL631 Week Six: Collaboration and Information Sharing within HSINT. Retrieved June 30, 2020, from American Public University System (APUS):

Ackerman, R. K. (2003, October). Horizontal Intelligence Challenges Intelligence Planners. Retrieved from SIGNAL-AFCEA:

DHS Editors. (2008). Department of Homeland Security Information Sharing Strategy Information in Sharing Governance , 1-9.

House Homeland Security Committee Majority Staff Report. (2017). Advancing the Homeland Security Information Sharing Environment: A Review of the National Network of Fusion Centers. Washington, D.c.: Homeland Security Committee.

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