I attended this conference on Information Sharing and Homeland Security over the last two days – the main reason for the light posting over the last 48 hours. Overall, it was a very interesting event – some good presentations from senior representatives of DHS, DOJ, DNI, NCTC, and state & local agencies. The conference was held at the DIA’s building at Bolling AFB – a beautiful facility, in comparision to the squalor on Nebraska Avenue at which Congress continues to insist that DHS employees must work.
DHS Chief Intelligence Officer Charlie Allen spoke yesterday afternoon, and his remarks elevated my already-high confidence in his performance on the job. He fully acknowledged that DHS Information Analysis (IA)’s problems at the time of his arrival, and went through the list of steps he was taking to fix them, including:
- Integrating intelligence activities within the component DHS agencies;
- Developing a training regimen and a career path for DHS intelligence analysts;
- Hiring junior-level analysts (GS 7/9/11) for the first time;
- Strengthening outreach to Congress;
- Embedding DHS officers in state and/or local fusion centers;
- Creating an information-management system for DHS IA for the first time, noting that when he arrived, DHS didn’t have searchable databases for its intelligence;
- Establishing an ISR office within IA, to better leverage national collection assets in support of emergency response (e.g. using remote sensing satellites in Katrina-type responses);
- Clearing more state & local officials. He noted that he had just approved the clearance of 50 officers in NYC at the secret level;
- Taking a look at the risk management methodologies used to award grants, and trying to strengthen them, noting that no one in the federal government knows terrorism risk better than him.
Allen mentioned that he was working on the FY2008 budget submission for IA, in a way that hinted that he would be asking for many new resources. Throughout his remarks, there were several wistful notes of “if I only had the resources, I would do this…” I walked away thinking that we can’t afford to wait. Congress should find a way during the FY 2007 House-Senate conference on DHS appropriations to get an extra $100 million to Charlie Allen, to accelerate his plans to improve DHS intelligence. Funding his office might not be as politically sexy as hiring 1,000 new border guards or building new detention facilities, but it’s much more vital to our ability to protect the nation against terrorism.
p.s. One other tip from the conference: the DHS S&T Directorate’s Stephen Dennis mentioned that a major “realignment” of S&T was underway, and would be announced shortly. He didn’t provide details. Stay posted.