The DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) continues to examine that information and disseminate information to state and local agencies that could act on any of the intelligence within it, said Caryn Wagner, DHS undersecretary of intelligence and analysis.
"I am confident that we are getting the information that we need that needs to be shared with our state and local partners and our critical infrastructure partners. It has been going relatively smoothly, considering the volume of information," Wagner told the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counter-terrorism and Intelligence.
The department has added more analysts to the DHS Terrorism Task Force (DTTF) to come through the information, thus enabling the DTTF, an analysis group in I&A, to support its mission of providing DHS components with awareness of emerging terrorism threats, Wagner said.
"We are using the DTTF as our focal point to review that information, working with FBI and getting information out to our state and local partners," Wagner confirmed.
DHS and the FBI have put out 12 joint intelligence bulletins at various classification levels related to specific sectors or regions, drawn from information found in the materials seized at the compound of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, Wagner said. She characterized the work between FBI and DHS as an example of very good interagency cooperation.
On the state and local level, I&A has been supporting state and local fusion centers with personnel, training, and resources, Wagner said. As a result, the fusion centers have produced improved situational awareness and intelligence products.
The fusion centers also have been active as the DHS campaign known as "If You See Something, Say Something," which seeks to leverage the eyes and ears of the American public to spot suspicious activity, Wagner said. They also participate in the Justice Department's National Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative.
Wagner expressed concerns that budget cuts proposed in the fiscal 2012 homeland security appropriations bill could hurt the capabilities of state and local fusion centers, however. While the billion dollars in cuts from fiscal 2011 does not affect intelligence centers in DHS, it would cut grants that support state and local fusion centers.
The grant program, administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), assists the fusion centers with procuring manpower, information technology, and other resources they may require, Wagner said.
Meanwhile, DHS has till been working to integrate its own information systems, Wagner acknowledged. DHS intelligence analysts still struggle with legacy systems that do not always allow for robust information sharing. As such, DHS has a great deal of data on various subjects such as travelers and immigrants that it cannot easily integrate at times, Wagner said.
Some of this data may reside in stovepiped systems, but DHS I&A is working with the DHS chief information officer to improve capabilities of accessing that data across the entire department, Wagner said.
"We have a ways to go until we get to that goal and that is something we are still working on," Wagner stated.
The DHS I&A Office also has been working with intelligence representatives from the major DHS components of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and the US Coast Guard to improve intelligence analysis and reporting across the department.
Representatives from ICE, CBP, TSA, and the Coast Guard, along with I&A, form the Homeland Security Intelligence Council, which has been undertaking initiative to standardize processes.
For example, last year, the HSIC set up a working group to standardize reporting practices for Homeland Security Intelligence Reports (HIRs), which are the main intelligence products that DHS sends to law enforcement and intelligence authorities. The HSIC effort has focused on standardizing training, clearance processes, and compliance with rules.
The 13 recommendations produced by the HIR working group will result in improved reports for use by state and local agencies, Wagner said.
James Chaparro, ICE assistant director for intelligence, said his agency has been doing well with HIR reports. In fiscal 2011 to date, ICE has produced 58 percent of DHS HIRs, he reported. Fifty-four percent of those were evaluated by consumers of the reports as being high value or bearing major significance, which is a measurement of how important the reports have been.
Moreover, the HSIC has set up a counter-intelligence (CI) working group to develop the first-ever DHS Counter-Intelligence Strategy.
"By integrating the analytical and operational elements of DHS's CI program, the [working group] postures the department to effectively identify, understand, and counter foreign intelligence activities," Wagner explained in written testimony. "The Secretary has directed I&A to lead the department's counterintelligence program."
This effort will include a focus on an enterprise approach to counter-terrorism, identifying duplication and redundancy among DHS components, Wagner said. While the missions of the components are distinct, they could benefit from some deconflicting of their counter-terrorism efforts.
I&A itself also launched a DHS Watchlisting Cell, which become fully operational on Jan. 31, to standardize the nominating process for submitting individuals for inclusion on watchlists maintained by the National Counter-Terrorism Center, Wagner said.