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11/16/2010
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Auditor Faults DHS Intelligence Data Sharing

Limitations in the Department of Homeland Security's IT systems are causing long delays in sharing counter-terrorism information with regional personnel, finds inspector general.

Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is struggling to provide regional fusion centers with timely intelligence information due to limitations with its process of disseminating information as well as with its IT systems, according to a recently released report by the Office of Inspector General.

The DHS collaborated with the Department of Justice to set up state and local fusion centers in 2003 to coordinate counter-terrorist information and data collected by both government agencies and private companies. There currently are more than 20 across the country.

While generally the DHS has been proactive in pushing information to fusion centers and adjusting how it shares information with them based on user experience, the agency is falling behind on providing centers with Homeland Intelligence Reports (HIRs), which contain information the DHS hasn't yet fully evaluated, according to the report.

The DHS uses HIRs to share information with fusion centers on suspicious activities before they are fully vetted. As of March 2010, 144 HIRs were overdue, with 93 more than 90 days behind schedule. These kinds of delays mean fusion centers are receiving information after it's no longer relevant, according to the report.

One fusion center reported receiving an HIR about a suspicious person six months after it was collected, according to the report. Another fusion center official said it can take nine or 10 months for HIRs to be shared with the centers.

"Such delays have led some officials to avoid the DHS process and rely on the FBI to share unfinished intelligence information," according to the OIG.

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