Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

July 11, 2006

Hearing looks at port security and information-sharing

Filed under: Intelligence and Info-Sharing,Port and Maritime Security — by Christian Beckner on July 11, 2006

The House Government Reform Committee held a field hearing today in Brooklyn, NY on the topic of port & maritime security. NY1 provides a brief summary of the event. The prepared remarks by the GAO’s Stephen Caldwell find that Area Maritime Security Committees have improved coordination of security activities at U.S. ports. And the Port of NY/NJ’s Bethann Rooney looks at port security from her vantage point at PANYNJ, and critiques the lack of federal coordination on supply chain security issues (emphasis added):

Operation Safe Commerce is just one of numerous federally and privately funded supply chain security projects that are currently underway. While many of these individual projects show great promise, true progress and results are hampered by the fact that they are not tracked, managed and coordinated by a single Department or Agency and as a result lessons learned are not being shared, results are not being leveraged and funds are being wasted. We believe that all cargo security research and development projects should be managed by a single organization within DHS that acts as the central repository and clearing house for all studies and the focal point on supply chain security issues.

She also argues that new operations centers and information-sharing initiatives should not be stovepiped in the port security domain, but should be linked to a broader national information-sharing architecture:

Over the last several years, hundreds of millions of dollars in Federal Homeland Security funding has been spent to develop and implement disparate information sharing networks and joint operations centers at the local, state and federal levels without the benefit of a coherent federal vision on a national homeland security architecture. Absent such a vision and a set of guiding standards, we run the significant risk of local, state and federal operations centers that need to work together in an emergency not being compatible with one another in technology, operational methods or both.

There are three promising efforts now underway that we recommend Congress consider. The first is the National Command Capability Working Group, a Joint DHS / DoD program to set direction for a national information sharing and collaboration network. The second is a program called Joint CONUS Communications Support Enterprise (or JCCSE), a joint project of US Northern Command and the National Guard Bureau. The third effort is the Regional Information Joint Awareness Network or RIJAN. RIJAN is a DHS funded, DoD managed and Port Authority led multi-agency project to build an information sharing and collaboration network among key operations centers in the New York and New Jersey port region. Regional partners include the States of New York and New Jersey and the City of New York. DHS sponsorship is via the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO).

I agree somewhat with this sentiment. It makes sense to link port info-sharing activities with the broader national info-sharing architecture, but there is also a value in having operations centers and channels of communications focused on single ports, as a means of building personal trust and close working relationships among the multiple agencies who have jurisdiction at any given port. The best outcome is a system that is standards-based and facilitates and encourages information-sharing, but allows smaller organizations and communities of interests to operate efficiently within it.

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