Data Sharing Falls Short - InformationWeek

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4/26/2006
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Data Sharing Falls Short

More than four years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the U.S. government still lacks adequate policies and procedures for sharing sensitive and terrorism-related information, the Government Accountability Office said in a report last week.

The GAO surveyed 26 agencies for the report and found 56 different designations for protecting sensitive yet unclassified information. The GAO warns that a lack of governmentwide policies for information protection and sharing makes consistency impossible. Most agencies don't have policies for determining which employees have authority to make designations, nor do they provide training or conduct reviews of their practices. "This could result in either unnecessarily restricting materials that could be shared or inadvertently releasing materials that should be restricted," according to the report.

Last December, President Bush worked out details on how a new Information Sharing Council and a program manager in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence will work with other agencies to come up with united policies on data exchange by the end of this year. That office has since drafted a plan to increase and strengthen information-sharing initiatives.

Though the GAO acknowledges that some progress has been made, stumbling blocks remain. The program manager for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence resigned in January, and a replacement has yet to be named.

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