Intelligence Sharing Falters at State and Local Levels

By Matthew Harwood

The Department of Homeland Security continues to falter in its ability to coordinate intelligence sharing at the state and local levels, according to an internal report obtained by The Wall Street Journal.

In particular, Homeland Security doesn't provide state and local officials with all the information they need, according to a report commissioned by the department and written by an outside consulting firm. It also often tailors intelligence reports for department officials in Washington rather than those at lower levels of government, the report said.

Homeland Security officials said the findings are accurate but the purpose of the report is to develop new initiatives to build upon progress they have made over the past year in improving communications with state and local officials.

Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the report "starkly demonstrates that we are still not providing our first preventers in state and local law enforcement with the timely and accurate intelligence they need to help keep the homeland safe."

Later this afternoon, Thompson's committee will hold a hearing on homeland security intelligence. Charles E. Allen, under secretary for intelligence and analysis at DHS, will testify and as WSJ makes clear, the report's findings will spark "intense questioning."

However, Allen told WSJ that DHS has made progress over the last year sending 22 aides to work at state-level intelligence centers, which he says "made of a world of difference." DHS has plans to deploy more personnel to more state intelligence centers in the future.

The report—produced by the national security consulting firm, Centra Technology Inc.—said while DHS had improved the flow of information, many states complained that the department doesn't ask what their top information needs are, which means those needs aren't included in their intelligence analyses. States say this results in a information gap between what they need and what DHS provides. 

States also complained that DHS doesn't relate to the states how international and domestic developments affect their local decision-making, finding the department silent during the initial stage of a domestic or international crisis.

Moreover, state intelligence information requests to agencies within DHS were regularly denied on queries as basic as checking a suspicious name.

"This just smells like the usual turf battles that we have been trying to overcome," Representative Jane Harman (D-CA) told WSJ.

For more on improving intelligence sharing at state, regional, and urban levels, look out for assistant Joseph Straw's "Smashing Intelligence Stovepipes" in the March issue of Security Management.


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