information sharing

A new app for Android devices called, will read your favorite Websites and blogs to you, freeing your hands (via Bluetooth) while driving. But it also holds out a promising solution to those who have difficulty seeing or reading small text on a smartphone or tablet screen.

Available free of charge through the Google Play store, Web2go, developed by Tel Aviv-based Volacent Inc., introduces what the company calls Artificial Reading Intelligence (ARI). ARI allows the application to streamline the reading process so that the app reads only the relevant text in an article, skipping over superfluous information such as long lists of menu items, photo captions on advertisements and other data points that are not part of the story or blog entry. Keep reading →

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, our government not only needed to improve its counterterrorism intelligence, but also share information better, faster, and smarter. We found that our national security relies on our ability to share the right information, with the right people, at the right time – and we must “enlist all of our intelligence, law enforcement, and homeland security capabilities,” as the National Security Strategy states.
This article was adopted from a blog post written by Kshemendra Paul, program manager for the Information Sharing Environment program.

On December 19, the President signed the National Strategy for Information Sharing and Safeguarding (NSISS). This new National Strategy is part of a policy continuum that includes Section 1016 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, the 2007 National Strategy for Information Sharing, Executive Orders 13587 and 13388, the ISE Presidential Guidelines, and the National Security Strategy. Keep reading →

It’s been a little more than a year since Admiral Thad Allen (USCG-Ret.) joined Booz Allen Hamilton as a senior vice president after a storied career with the U.S. Coast Guard, and serving as National Incident Commander for the Department of Homeland Security in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.

Breaking Gov contributor Dan Verton sat down with Allen to discuss the importance of innovation and the challenges frontline federal government managers face when trying to implement new innovations. He also discussed some of the priorities for the future of homeland security outlined recently by Booz Allen Hamilton, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the creation of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Breaking Gov: How important is the concept and practice of innovation to the Department of Homeland Security as we look toward the next 10 years of the homeland security mission?

Adm. Thad Allen: I don’t think there’s any doubt that innovation has been the key to the success of this country since our revolution. The ability to innovate, create new things and bring them to market progress the country along.

I think the real issue is how do you enable innovation in a government department or across the government? How quickly can you recognize technologies and bring them to bear on the problems you’re dealing with?

We have a whole host of regulations and federal acquisition regulations. We’re concerned about who we sell business to in the federal government. There are groups that we want to help and encourage, such as small business and the middle class. We need to figure out a better way to identify innovative capabilities that we can bring to bear in the homeland security area.

I don’t think right now the current acquisition procedures or requirements development procedures are mature to the point where we can move as rapidly as we need to.

Is it just the acquisition side of the equation, or is it the federal culture that does not encourage innovation from frontline managers?

Allen: The whole notion of innovation is a challenge across the government. What you have is a set of regulatory requirements that take time [and] they’re difficult to work through for new and challenging technologies. And then there’s a question of whether or not the people in government are technically qualified to understand those new technologies.

I think there’s a dual challenge. One is a process challenge. How do we make the process simpler? But there’s a content challenge. If you don’t understand the technology regarding cloud analytics [as an example] or what a cloud reference architecture can do, or what high performance computing can do, then you don’t make real good decisions about the acquisition of technology or make policy and budget decisions that enable that.

Are efforts such as the FedRAMP process helping agencies to innovate and adopt new technologies?

Allen: In the current budget environment, we can’t afford to have multiple stovepipe systems, multiple licensing fees, and multiple costs for software platforms. The downward force on funding is going to force the integration of software and data sets.

Then, once you get them in one place, it’s easier to make a fundamental change in how you actually manage the data. It’s something we’re going to have to do and it’s going to be required for mission execution.

More importantly, I don’t think we can operate the systems we’re operating right now and stovepipe them in proprietary systems in the current budget environment.

Our theory is, it takes a network to defeat a network.”

How do you see future of Homeland Security changing?

Allen: I believe terrorism is nothing more than political criminality; so you’re really dealing with a criminal organizations involved in criminal activity. The things all criminal organizations need to succeed is …they need to have a source of financing, they have to talk, they have to move, and they have to spend money to be successful. That is a network.

When you look at our law enforcement organizational structure and how we deal with terrorism, we tend to focus particular threat streams on particular agencies, and that’s how we employ them, like the Drug Enforcement Administration; (the Bureau of) Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; the US Secret Service; Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Our theory is, it that takes a network to defeat a network. And if we’re going to do that properly, we’re going to have to break down the walls between those jurisdictions, particularly with regards to how we share information.

Read more from Thad Allen in an op-ed he wrote for Breaking Gov last year on the importance of separating the value of public service from the politics.

Federal leaders for government-wide acquisition and information-sharing initiatives have joined forces with technology suppliers to hammer out a new set of recommendations to identify and use the government’s information sharing standards and requirements.

The goal of the recommendations is to enhance national security, increase efficiency and reduce costs by improving collaboration between government and industry in developing open interoperability standards and incorporating them into commercial products Keep reading →

When the Department of Homeland Security hired Chief Information Officer Richard Spires three years ago, he became the seventh CIO in eight years tasked with bringing rationality to DHS‘s unwieldy IT fiefdoms – and delivering on a mandate for sharing information across the department.

Spires, a former IRS deputy commissioner in charge of operations, quickly set his sights beyond technology matters, persuading the department’s top officials that to succeed, it would take a functioning governance board and the commitment of top leadership to support that governance if DHS was to achieve those goals.

That effort, followed by a systematic portfolio review of every major IT program across the DHS, is clearly paying off, according to a Congressional report from the Government Accountability Office. The report, issued Sept. 18, generally praised the Department of Homeland Security for making progress in achieving its information-sharing mission. But it also cautioned DHS that further steps should be taken to continue that progress and improve its efforts.

The GAO auditors reviewed information obtained from customers of DHS’s information sharing efforts, including 10 of 77 fusion centers, where states and major urban areas collaborate with federal agencies to improve information sharing; 1 of 7 DHS operational components who participate in the DHS Intelligence Enterprise, ICE; and 2 of DHS’s 16 intelligence community customers, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Investigators concluded DHS’s governance board is proving effective in enhancing collaboration among DHS components. The board has also developed and documented a process to prioritize some of the initiatives for additional oversight and support.

However, GAO said DHS needs to do more to sustain its progress: specifically updating its processes for identifying information-sharing gaps and the results; and analyzing root causes of those gaps. It also said DHS lacks an institutional record that would help it replicate and sustain

those information-sharing efforts.

The report also noted that funding constraints appear to be having a significant impact on DHS’s key information-sharing initiatives.

“Progress has slowed for half of the 18 key initiatives, in part because of funding constraints,” the investigation found, noting five of DHS’s top eight priority information-sharing initiatives

currently face funding shortfalls.

The governance board has not been able to secure additional funds for these initiatives because they ultimately compete for funding within the budgets of individual components, although the board’s involvement has kept some initiatives from experiencing funding cuts, according to DHS officials.

DHS’s eight priority information-sharing initiatives, as of September 2012, include:

  • Controlled Homeland Information Sharing Environment
  • Information Sharing Segment Architecture Transition
  • Law Enforcement Information Sharing Initiative
  • Common Operating Picture/User-Defined Operation Picture
  • Traveler Enforcement Compliance System Modernization
  • Private Sector Information Sharing Work Plan
  • Homeland Secure Data Network
  • Homeland Security Information Network
However, GAO also noted that “DHS has not yet determined the specific capabilities each particular program must implement for DHS to conclude that it has improved information sharing enough to achieve its information-sharing vision for 2015.”

Establishing the level of capabilities programs must implement could help DHS prioritize programs, and track and assess progress toward its vision, the report said.

DHS responded to GAO’s report, saying department officials concurred with GAO’s recommendations.

Competitive pressures have increased the demand for superior performance by employees in every setting imaginable. Yet with a tight budgetary environment as well as workforce shifts, the challenge for federal agencies is how to bring employees’ knowledge base up to the required levels of excellence with the least disruptive impact on operations and cost.

That is particularly true as successive generations move into positions of responsibility. Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, account for 26% of the total U.S. population. Although many are postponing retirement, nationally, 10,000 Boomers retire each day – taking with them years of work experience and institutional knowledge. Keep reading →

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