Steven Aftergood: USG Information Sharing Update

IO Impotency
Steven Aftergood

Information Sharing Still a Work in Progress

August 12th, 2011 by Steven Aftergood

While information sharing among government agencies has increased dramatically over the past decade, it still falls short in some areas.

Due to “impediments to intelligence information sharing between U.S. forces and coalition partners,” information sharing with U.S. allies in Afghanistan has faltered to the detriment of the military mission, the Inspector General of the Department of Defense said in a mostly classified report last month.

Continuing impediments have “resulted in information not being tactically useful by the time it is authorized for release,” the Inspector General said.  See “Results in Brief: Improvements Needed in Sharing Tactical Intelligence with the International Security Assistance Force Afghanistan,” excerpted from DoD Inspector General Report 11-INTEL-13, July 18, 2011.

The 2011 Annual Report on the DNI Information Sharing Environment (pdf) said that “steady progress has been made” in information sharing, especially with respect to homeland security and law enforcement.

Among other things, the Report noted that the intelligence community intranet called Intelink “recently crossed the 100 million document threshold for records exposed to Intelink search services…. In one month alone this year, Intelink recorded over two million searches.”  Such datapoints “highlight the ability of IC personnel to acess more information quicker and more effectively, enabling them to better share information and thus perform their missions,” the Report said.

Another recent report from the Government Accountability Office said the Information Sharing Environment still had not identified its desired “end state.”  Six years after it was created, “there is not a clear definition of what the ISE is intended to achieve and include.”  See “Information Sharing Environment: Better Road Map Needed to Guide Implementation and Investments” (pdf), Government Accountability Office report GAO-11-455, July 2011.

It should be understood that “information sharing” is quite different from “information disclosure,” and the two practices are usually at odds.  In fact, the prerequisite for most so-called information sharing is an official assurance that the information to be shared will not be disclosed to unauthorized persons such as members of the general public.

Phi Beta Iota:  The secret world spends $80 billion a year going after secret information that produces “at best” 4% of what a major commander needs to know, and nothing for everyone else (e.g. assistant secretaries down to desk and action officers).  What the above really means is that within the 4% that is useful, information sharing still has a long way to go.  The lack of serious US Government attention to Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), both among consumers and producers, is another matter entirely.  There information sharing is abyssmal as well.