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How Not to Promote Sharing

The Homeland Security Information Network came under fire today from the Homeland Security Department’s Office of the Inspector General, which said management and trust problems have undermined the project.

HSIN was intended to be a network for developing and disseminating threat alerts, notifications and warnings among public safety organizations, emergency personnel, and state and local officials.

But privacy concerns and inadequate planning and resources have stymied efforts to make HSIN a viable information-sharing solution for government agencies, said Frank Deffer, DHS’ assistant IG.

One of the inescapable aspects of a bureaucracy, especially a new one, is the desire to put a unique stamp on things or in a worst-case scenario to re-invent the wheel. The whole idea of a HSIN is great, but it already existed in the form of the Information Sharing and Analysis Centers; public-private partnerships that had been used to exchange information and collaborate years before DHS came around. Instead of using what was already there and working, DHS pushed for HSIN and predictably; ISACs pushed back. ISACs are still standing and working; HSIN . . . eh, not so much.

All government “sharing” initiatives suffer from the same delusional thinking: that a top-down push to share is the solution to our collaboration woes. The fact of the matter it that pubic-private, public-public, and private-private sharing goes on all the time, at mostly working levels, and with great success. GroupIntel forums and wiki are good examples, but there are others. Providing the tools/environment and making introductions works better than official mandates because you can’t force people to trust people. That’s something that all the secret-world entities trying to reinvent themselves as sharers have yet to grasp.

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji spent nearly 20 years in the US intelligence community. Trained in both SIGINT and HUMINT disciplines he has worked at the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and the National Reconnaissance Office. At various points in his career he served as an expert in information warfare, computer network operations, computer forensics, and indications and warning. A veteran of the US Army, Michael has served in both strategic and tactical assignments in the Pacific Theater, the Balkans, and the Middle East.