The DHS inspector general published an excellent report yesterday on the shortcomings of the Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN) and the Department’s woes in developing effective information-sharing with state & local officials.
The report tells the history of the development of the HSIN, pointing to a number of decisions that have hurt the adoption and effectiveness of the HSIN, including poor choices of technology, failure to integrate with existing law enforcement systems, minimal training & guidance, and inadequate consultation with state & local officials.
The result? Low usage of the HSIN among its registered members:
Although the total number of accounts for the law enforcement portal has grown over the past year, only a small percentage of account holders log onto the system daily. As Figure 6 indicates, of the approximately 3,000 account holders on the law enforcement portal, an average of only six percent logged on daily in December 2005. The peak average daily logons for any given month in the year 2005 was 12 percent.
Further, of the approximately 4,000 accounts on the emergency portal, an average of only two percent logged on daily in December 2005. Average daily usage reached its highest monthly level, 11 percent, in September 2005, due to inquiries during the Hurricane Katrina response. Usage of the counter-terrorism portal was similar: of the approximately 9,500 account holders on this portal, an average of only about two percent logged on daily. Again, usage peaked in September 2005 due to Hurricane Katrina; the highest level of average daily logons for that time was three percent.
If few people are using the system, then it will continue to spiral downward; a system like this is only useful if there is a critical mass of participants who actively use the site. Clearly a course correction is necessary for DHS’s information-sharing efforts – toward an approach that is much more consensus-driven and participatory, rather than imposed by DHS.