Skinner: DHS needs to improve data sharing of key units

Thewidelyanticipated,175-pagereportrecommendsthatCBPandICEbemergedtoimproveoperations.DHSofficialstestifiedataHousesubcommitteehearingNov.15thattheyconsideredmergingthetwolargeagencies,butrejectedtheideabecauseitwouldcausemorebureaucraticdelays.“Thetimeandattentionthatitwouldtaketorestructurethesetwoorganizationsunderonefigurativeheadwoulddivertcriticalresourcesawayfromwhereourfocusmustbe—securingtheborder,”StewartBaker,assistantsecretaryforpolicyatDHS,testifiedtotheHouseHomelandSecuritySubcommitteeonManagement,IntegrationandOversightyesterday.AmongthefindingsinthereportarethatshortcomingsinITsystemsarecontributingtotheunits’lackofcoordination.CBP’sandICE’sprimarymeansofsharingintelligenceistheTreasuryEnforcementCommunicationsSystem(TECS),accordingtotheIG’sreport.However,thesystemwasnotdesignedforthatpurpose,andmanyCBPpersonnellackaccesstoretrievecriticalinformationenteredintothesystembyICEagents.Therefore,Customsagents,especiallythoseinthefield,arenotreceivingimportantintelligence.“Furthermore,becausethedatasystemwasnotdesignedasanintelligencetoolanddoesnothighlighttrendsordetectanomalies,intelligenceanalystsoftenareunawareoftheinformationitcontainsandmusthuntthroughtheentiresystemtoretrieveinformationneededto‘connectthedots,’”theIGreportsaid.Skinnercitedtheexampleofthepre-9/11“PhoenixMemorandum,”writtenbyanFBIagent,thatnotedthatalargenumberofpeoplewithsuspectedterroristlinkswereenrollinginU.S.flightschools.Thememowas“lost”intheFBI’sITsystemsandnotacteduponbeforetheSept.11,2001,terroristattacksbecausethesystemswerenotdesignedtopushintelligenceouttofieldagents.“JustasintheFBI’scase,CBP’sandICE’sdependenceonTECScouldsimilarlyresultinlostorundisclosedintelligence,”Skinnerwroteinthereport.OtherIT-relatedfindingsinthenewreportinclude:• CBPmanagersbelievethatmakingtheU.S.VisitorandImmigrantStatusIndicatorTechnology(U.S.Visit)programanindependententityoutsideCBPcontrolwas“abaddecision,”Skinnerwrote.TheBorderandTransportationSecuritydirectoratehasdonea“terriblejob”developingU.S.VisittomeetCBP’soperationalrequirements.Asaresult,U.S.VisitispoorlyintegratedwithCBP’srequirements,thereportsaid.• ThecreationofregionalintelligencecenterstofocusontheintelligenceneedsofbothICEandCBPfieldoperationsinthoseregions“maybeaveryeffectiveandefficientmeansofconductingintelligenceanalysisandproducingintelligenceproducts,”thereportsaid.ThecenterswouldworkbestiftheyhaveICEandCBPagentsworkingcollaborativelyinthesamelocation.


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