Magazine article Information Management

More Information Could Mean Less Privacy

Magazine article Information Management

More Information Could Mean Less Privacy

Article excerpt

President Bush signed the E-Government Act to enhance public access to information after authorizing Homeland Security legislation that may threaten privacy

As 2002 drew to a close, the Bush administration and the U.S. Congress completed work on two major legislative initiatives, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and the adoption of a federal E-Government program. The government heralded the approval of each initiative as a significant step into the 21st century, as readiness against terrorism and government's management of information have become two key issues for lawmakers.

While e-government initiatives could be in place sometime in 2003, the new Homeland Security Department may take several years before becoming the fully functioning agency envisioned by its enacting legislation. However, both efforts will impact the future of records and information management, albeit in different ways. For example, the E-Government Act is meant to enhance public access to information while the homeland security legislation grants the government broader rights to access and collect private individual and corporate information.

The passage of the Homeland Security Act (Public Law 107-296) represents the largest government reorganization effort of the past 50 years. The reorganization, expected to begin taking shape in March with the goal of being fully operational by September 20, 2003, will combine 22 current agencies, with an aggregate budget of $40 billion, within the newly created department. The department will employ approximately 170,000 employees, including civil servants from the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the U.S. Secret Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Transportation Security Administration, and the U.S. Coast Guard. This reorganization will have major records management implications because, at present, most of these agencies' information management systems are not compatible for information sharing.

In addition to the basic reorganization of existing governmental functions, the legislation calls for the creation of four directorates, comprised of agencies to be consolidated into the Department of Homeland Security, which is responsible for detecting and identifying threats against the United States. The four directorates are:

* Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection: Under the plan, the two biggest intelligence organizations - the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) - remain outside the department. But several assets, such as the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center, will be included. This directorate is responsible for protecting the nation's critical infrastructure.

It is charged with collecting and analyzing information regarding the threat of terrorist attacks from both public (local, state, and federal) and private sector sources. The directorate will first assess the nation's critical infrastructure and key resources for vulnerabilities, then develop a comprehensive plan for securing both the infrastructure and resources from various means of attack. The directorate also will address information security and will be responsible for recommending new policies for governing information sharing between government entities.

Science and Technology: The plan moves parts of the National Laboratory programs under the department's control and entrusts it with developing countermeasures to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and other emerging terrorist threats.

Border and Transportation Security: This directorate will include the Bureau of Border Security, the Office of Domestic Preparedness, the Customs Service, the Transportation Security Administration, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, and the Federal Protective Service. Emergency Preparedness and Response: This directorate will coordinate the federal government's response to terrorist attacks. …

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