Thursday, December 17, 2009

Creating a Culture of Information Sharing

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard “Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council” magazine. By Ms. Susan Henry, U.S. Coast Guard Information Sharing executive agent.

The Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 was signed into law on August 3, 2007, bringing assessment of federal information sharing practices and performance into sharper focus. Though annual assessment of federal information sharing had already been mandated under the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, the ownership and scope of the process were uncertain, and the reorganization of the intelligence community was still in progress.

The interpretation of information sharing within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has also been evolving since 2004. Within DHS, the vision of our responsibility to share stretches across all threats, all hazards, and all missions under the department’s purview. The Coast Guard is accountable for our information sharing performance across all maritime regimes and all missions, with a huge number and variety of partners.

New Annual Performance Measures
A few months after the 9/11 Commission Act was passed, the program manager for the information sharing environment of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) began working closely with DHS and other federal departments and agencies to identify specific, achievable measures of information sharing performance. The baseline measures focus on several key improvement categories, including:

· establishing integrated policy and practices, such as international agreements, privacy policy, and interagency reporting of suspicious activities;
· establishing agency-level information sharing governance;
· implementing joint federal/state/local fusion centers and “common terrorism information sharing” standards;
· cultural transformation (including personnel incentives and disincentives) and training.

In the summer of 2008 ODNI used an overall list of 14 key measures to create and present the first annual report to Congress.

How Do We Measure Up?
Coast Guard missions have always required information sharing with international, federal, state, local, tribal, industry, public, and private partners. As a result of our tradition of information sharing, our entering position against the new baseline measures is strong. Coast Guard sector commanders have actively pursued new collaborative planning, prevention, and response partnerships at the local level. Regional alliances promoted by federal law, policy, sponsorship, and grants, such as area maritime security committees, have been added to existing area contingency plan-based and Incident Command System-oriented partnerships.

DHS has formed several focused shared mission communities already. New shared mission communities will focus on other aspects of the “all threats, all hazards” DHS realm, establishing policy-level collaboration in critical infrastructure, incident response, and other concerns crucial to safety and security. These will cut across all Coast Guard missions, and all will require Coast Guard representation.

What Do We Still Need to Do?
To account for the information sharing we already do, we need to establish enterprise information sharing governance. We need to develop an agency-level information sharing strategy that publicly articulates the improvements we intend to support and invest in for the future. We need to continue to develop an information sharing segment architecture to ensure that our essential exchanges of information with our partners become part of our capability requirements. We also clearly need better collaborative, networked capabilities to work efficiently and effectively with our partners at local and regional levels.

Consistent with the 9/11 Commission Report’s call to “unity of effort” in information sharing, the new federal annual performance measures also call us to create a culture of information sharing. To facilitate this, we must include measurable improvements to our personnel evaluation and appraisal standards and institute incentives and rewards for excellence in information sharing, as well as disincentives for obstructing information sharing with our partners.

As a whole, our monitoring of Coast Guard field units’ information sharing practices shows a multi-mission federal agency stretching to the limits of its resources to share information in order to increase operational effectiveness. The new federal information sharing performance measures give us additional opportunities to showcase successful partnering, better document our constraints, and continue to improve the safety and security of the U.S. maritime domain.

For more information:
Full article and “Focus on Safety” edition of USCG Proceedings is available at Click on “archives” and then “2008 Vol. 65, Number 2” (Summer 2008).

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