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Commentary: Bolstering national security

The government doesn't yet recognize the size of the effort required for agencies involved in homeland security to share information and collaborate on decisions, a Gartner analyst says.

3 min read
By French Caldwell, Gartner Analyst

The United States will achieve homeland security through the effective use of information. Achieving that goal requires more than simply identifying and purchasing the right technologies.

It requires a knowledge management infrastructure

See news story:
Data-sharing gap puts agencies at risk
to bring together all relevant people and information.

An effective response to terrorism requires the regular sharing of information among different departments and agencies--before an incident occurs. The catastrophe of the Sept. 11 attacks compelled agencies to cooperate in response, but those agencies will likely return to their traditional uncooperative ways as the shock wears off. Under present arrangements, individual workers have little professional incentive to devote the significant amount of time needed to share information with other agencies.

The Office of Homeland Security (OHS) will therefore face a daunting challenge to implement knowledge management effectively across all relevant agencies--50 agencies in the federal government share responsibility for homeland security, and they must work with many others at the state and local levels.

The obvious answer to the knowledge management challenge lies in creating communities to address particular aspects of security. However, buying collaboration software and forming communities won't work in the long run, unless the culture of federal agencies changes to encourage, even mandate, collaboration.

To implement knowledge management effectively, OHS must lead the way in creating a national knowledge management infrastructure. To build it, the office must undertake four tasks:

 Build communities. Some will form spontaneously, but in other cases, OHS will have to make a concerted effort to build key communities.

 Support communities. OHS must oversee the implementation of all technologies necessary to support communities, including networks and databases, expertise location and management software, and collaboration tools.

 Reorient personnel policies. OHS can work to change personnel standards so that individual agencies hire and evaluate workers based on their ability to collaborate.

 Facilitate content management. OHS can prod agencies to improve data sharing throughout the government by aligning their formats as much as possible and implementing Web content management software.

Gartner believes that the federal government does not yet recognize the size of the effort required for agencies involved in homeland security to share information and collaborate on decisions as a normal procedure. For example, the Bush administration's proposed budget for fiscal 2003 increases the amount of money devoted to this task from $200 million to $700 million.

Although that is an encouraging move, $700 million represents only a fraction of the resources needed to get the job done. Consequently, Gartner advocates putting OHS in charge of a nationwide project to build a knowledge management infrastructure.

(For related commentary on the Office of Homeland Security, see Gartner.com.)

Entire contents, Copyright © 2002 Gartner, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.