Senators Collins, Lieberman and Durbin Call for Long-Overdue Implementation Plan for the Information Sharing Environment

U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), and Richard Durbin (D-IL) have called on John Negroponte, the Director of National Intelligence, to ensure that an information-sharing implementation plan that was required under the provisions of the intelligence reform bill of 2004, is submitted to Congress without further delay. The Information Sharing Environment (ISE) implementation plan, which was due within one year of enactment of the intelligence reform bill, is intended to outline a plan to facilitate government-wide terrorism information sharing and access capabilities among federal agencies and among federal, state, local, and tribal governments. The Senators acknowledged that some progress has been made in this regard, but this progress is not enough to ensure the continued security of the country. The newly created ISE has already seen its Second Program Manager, is not yet fully staffed, and has completed only an interim Implementation Plan.

In its Final Report on the 9/11 Commission Recommendations, the Public Discourse Project, which was the successor entity of the 9/11 Commission, gave the government a “D” grade in areas of “government-wide information sharing.”

A text of the Senators’ letter to Negroponte is as follows:

September 11, 2006

The Honorable John D. Negroponte
Director of National Intelligence
Office of the Director of National Intelligence
Washington, DC 20511

Dear Ambassador Negroponte:

We are writing to express our concern that the President has not yet submitted to Congress an implementation plan for the Information Sharing Environment (ISE).

As you know, this report was due within one year of enactment of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA) (P.L. 108-458, Section 1016(e)). Effective congressional oversight, including our consideration of whether the ISE should be reauthorized, depends on our receipt and review of the Implementation Plan.

In its July 22, 2004 report on the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States (the 9-11 Commission) concluded that a lack of information sharing contributed to the government’s failure to prevent the attacks and recommended that 1) policies and procedures should provide incentives for sharing information, to restore a better balance between security and shared knowledge; and 2) the President should lead the government-wide effort to bring resolution to the sometimes conflicting legal, policy, and technical issues across agencies to create a “trusted information network.” In light of these conclusions, recommendations, and other information, Congress passed IRTPA, establishing the ISE to improve information sharing.

Although some progress has been made in establishing the Information Sharing Environment, the relatively young ISE has already seen its second Program Manager, is not yet fully staffed, and has only completed an interim Implementation Plan.

As two major reports indicated last year, much remains to be done. In January 2005, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) added “Establishing Appropriate and Effective Information-Sharing Mechanisms to Improve Homeland Security” to its High Risk List, stating that they were “designating information sharing for homeland security as a governmentwide high-risk area because this area, while receiving increased attention, still faces significant challenges” (GAO-05-207). On December 5, 2005, the 9/11 Public Discourse Project, the successor body of the 9/11 Commission, issued its Final Report on 9/11 Commission Recommendations. Important areas on information sharing, including “incentives for information sharing” and “government-wide information sharing,” received a D in the scheme of letter grade assessments. This is simply unacceptable and demands urgent action to maximize our ability to prevent future acts of terrorism against the American people.

This year, the Markle Foundation’s Task Force on Information Security in the Information Age issued its third report, “Mobilizing Information to Prevent Terrorism: Accelerating Development of a Trusted Information Sharing Environment.” The report states “we have witnessed some genuine improvements in information sharing. But …systematic, trusted information sharing remains more of an aspiration than a reality.” The report calls for a renewed commitment to developing the information sharing environment, and we echo this call.

While we are aware of the strides that have been made, more must be done. As partners in the endeavor to foster better information sharing, we pledge to do our part. However, Congress cannot contribute fully to this effort without information. This is what makes the Implementation Plan so important. We request that you make completion and submission of the Implementation Plan a priority.

There is widespread agreement that information sharing must be improved and a trusted information sharing environment achieved. We cannot allow turf battles and agency infighting to stymie this effort. We ask that you, as the Director of National Intelligence, encourage the President, with the assistance of the ISE Program Manager, to submit to Congress the Implementation Plan required by IRTPA.

Thank you for your tremendous efforts in protecting our citizens from another terrorist attack. We look forward to continuing our work with you to address critical security and intelligence issues facing this nation. To respond to this request, or if you have questions, please feel free to contact one of us or our staff,

Susan M. Collins Joseph I. Lieberman Richard J. Durbin
Chairman Ranking Member United States Senator
Committee on Homeland Security Committee on Homeland Security
and Governmental Affairs and Governmental Affairs