Academic journal article Homeland Security Affairs

Exploring the Relationship between Homeland Security Information Sharing & Local Emergency Preparedness

Academic journal article Homeland Security Affairs

Exploring the Relationship between Homeland Security Information Sharing & Local Emergency Preparedness

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Information sharing between federal, state, and local agencies is a key element of the U.S. government's homeland security strategy. For federal officials, the post-9/11 threat environment requires a "trusted partnership" among federal, state, and local agencies to "make information sharing integrated, interconnected, effective and as automatic as possible in order to ensure our national security." 1 To support this vision, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Justice (DOJ) administer more than a dozen homeland security-related information-sharing systems. 2 Additionally, numerous governmental, commercial, and non-governmental organizations provide officials with homeland security alerts, updates, and databases to support preparedness efforts. 3 State-level "fusion centers" also integrate, analyze, and disseminate "all-source" homeland security information.

The 9/11 terrorist attacks focused public attention on the need for better information sharing among intelligence, law enforcement, and emergency management agencies. For example, the report of the Joint Inquiry of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, which investigated the circumstances surrounding 9/11, noted that "one of the most significant problems examined during the open hearings was the lack of information sharing between agencies." 4 Similarly, the 9/11 Commission's Final Report concluded: "The biggest impediment to all-source analysis - to a greater likelihood of connecting the dots - is the human or systemic resistance to sharing information." 5 As a result, the 9/11 Commission stated that agencies "should provide incentives for sharing, to restore a better balance between security and shared knowledge." 6 Many of the findings of the Joint Inquiry and the 9/11 Commission were codified into law as part of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. Additionally, former President Bush issued several executive orders requiring federal agencies to develop and implement policies and systems designed to enhance information sharing. These efforts culminated in the 2007 National Strategy for Information Sharing. 7

More than two decades of research has correlated information technology use with organizational effectiveness. 8 As a result, there has been little reason for officials to doubt the premise that improving the country's information-sharing systems will enhance homeland security preparedness. 9 Enormous financial, human, and technological resources have thus been dedicated to information-sharing initiatives across federal, state, and local levels. 10 It is therefore striking that so few empirical studies have sought to confirm the basic premises underlying information-sharing discourse and organizational practice. 11 One reason to reexamine these premises is that results have been marginal or counterintuitive in studies that have attempted to correlate information sharing with decision quality, 12 emergency preparedness, 13 response planning, 14 and law enforcement productivity and effectiveness. 15 These studies generally affirm a 2005 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report which found that "although important, the benefits of sharing information are often difficult to discern, while the risks and costs of sharing are direct and foreseeable." 16 Additionally, recent reports by both the Inspector General of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Markel Foundation indicated that major challenges in implementing information-sharing initiatives endure. 17

Admittedly, the government's information-sharing strategy will take many years to implement, and some might argue that evaluating the strategy's efficacy is premature. The goal of this preliminary study is to explore how officials make sense of the connection between homeland security information sharing and preparedness at the local level. …

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