Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

December 2, 2008

What Awaits Dems at DHS Part III: HSIN

Filed under: Intelligence and Info-Sharing,State and Local HLS,Technology for HLS — by Jonah Czerwinski on December 2, 2008

A story in yesterday’s Boston Globe entitled, “Homeland Security in Disarray” prompted this next installment in our series of posts on specific programs at DHS that need the next Administration’s attention. Our series, “What Awaits Dems at DHS,” continues with a look at the ever expanding Homeland Security Information Network.

The Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN) is a computer-based counterterrorism communications system intended to connect all states and tribal areas and 50 major urban areas with access to sensitive but unclassified (SBU) information.

HSIN is intended to enable the collection and dissemination of SBU information between federal, state, and local agencies through real-time interactive connectivity with the National Operations Center at DHS. While the senior official in charge of this program was intended to be Undersecretary for Intelligence and Analysis Charlie Allen, he has largely delegated the program to Admiral Rufe, Director of the DHS Operations Directorate. General Dynamics is the prime contractor for the HSIN.

Sources with oversight responsibility of HSIN cite disconnects between DHS and its state and local partners who are the intended consumers of HSIN content. Critics explain that the Department never adequately defined the requirements for HSIN with the end user’s needs in mind. Today, the content, technical interoperability, and user interface of HSIN are impractical for the state and local officials intended as its users. An advisory council established to overcome these challenges (the HSIN Advisory Council, or HSIN-AC) issued a report to the Secretary of Homeland Security with recommendations for enabling the HSIN to meet its obligation to states and localities. DHS took the unprecedented decision to issue a rebuttal to the advisory council’s findings.

The Department has already spent $91M in 2008 on HSIN. They are asking Congress to spend an additional $60M on its current trajectory. A report by the DHS Inspector General about the HSIN program is expected to be issued soon.

But HSIN is also on auto-pilot while its successor is being developed. DHS has begun a replacement program called “HSIN Next Gen,” which is intended to provide better security and information-sharing capabilities that the current HSIN platform. It will also consolidate the number of systems within DHS that share SBU information.

As part of a four-phase implementation, DHS plans to begin shifting current HSIN users to the new network beginning in May 2009. DHS intends to continue to use the existing HSIN with the goal of terminating its use in September 2009 when HSIN Next Gen is to be fully completed. DHS estimates it will cost $3.1 million to operate and maintain HSIN between now and its planned September 2009 termination. That’s minor league compared to its successor. DHS issued a task order this summer to acquire, deploy, operate, and maintain HSIN Next Gen for as many as five years at an estimated contract value of as much as $62 million.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

December 2, 2008 @ 1:31 am

Interesting how little is known about the classic “Internal Security” arrangements in the U.S. between Executive Branch departments and agencies. We can be certain that no White House level guidance on domestic “spying” arrangements allows a cohesive examination of either collection or dessimination of domestic intelligence. Charles Allen was a product of the foreign intelligence apparatus, not domestic. At the end of WWII and of course not really comparable most analysts decided that most of the useful intel during the war was already available domestically if it had been accessed and made usuable. Whether a religiously based foreign and domestic threat exists now is still largely in the eye of the beholder. Remarkable how little has really been explained, written about, accomplished or blocked about domestic intel and how a liberal democracy can provide internal security and privacy. Clearly, the sorting out was never a priority within DHS under the Bush Administration. Perhaps a starting point would be all internal Executive Branch correspondence on collection and dessimination of domestic intel would be a starting point for some future Commission. It is a cinch that the Secretary Designate is in for a difficult time even to learn what was accomplished or needs to be done. My guess is that the General Counsel’s office of DHS spent almost no time on legalities of domestic “spying” despite its potential importance to prevention of future 9/11s and the difficult issues it raises. Question is what was done, why, how, when and by whom? This could be the key issue for future of our democracy! But Ostrich behavior is not helpful. Nor is a don’t ask don’t tell approach when interfacing with the STATE and LOCAL governments.

Comment by Sherwood Iwasko

August 6, 2010 @ 12:13 am

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