The National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC) has issued its final report and recommendations on Intelligence Information Sharing. The 227 page report looks at all 18 private side critical infrastructure and key resource sectors and how well the Federal government’s counter-terrorism efforts are shared. The report looks at the private / public interface as well as the relationships between Federal agencies.
The series of interviews conducted by the NIAC discovered that the sharing of intelligence has improved significantly among federal government agencies and with state and local governments. The bi-directional sharing of information with the private sector is described, however, as “immature”. An on-going lack of trust is cited as the main reason for this failure.
The NIAC found that the will to share with the owner / operators of private critical sector firms exists at the highest levels of government. The multiplicity of agencies and departments involved has created a daunting morass of differing regulations, information classifications and an inefficient series of policies and procedures that hampers public / private sharing.
The Department of Homeland Security is singled out for attention by the NIAC. They find that DHS has the clear authority to share information with the private sector. As a cabinet level department, it has not clearly and evenly implemented that authority throughout its many agencies. The private sector is confused by the multiple agencies with multiple intelligence roles that they must deal with. And while DHS recently took the helm of a program to share information with the private sector, much remains to reduce confusion among personnel and agencies about what information is to be given and how.
The overall finding is that intelligence professionals within the government lack an understanding of the role played by the private sector. They also lack knowledge of the data collection and analysis capabilities that the firms in the critical sectors have. When the private side has a good working relationship with an agency, it is generally based on trusted personal relationships with individuals and not the agency as a whole.
The NIAC report suggests that more effort be made within the federal government to understand the businesses in critical sectors, the work they perform and the intelligence that they routinely collect. The report also suggests that a more uniform approach to working with the private side will prove more successful. The DHS and the Federal intelligence community as a whole need to routinely work with the private sector to build trust and establish the value of data shared.
Charles Simmins brings thirty years of accounting and management experience to his coverage of the news. An upstate New Yorker, he is a freelance journalist, former volunteer firefighter and EMT, and is owned by a wife and four cats.