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Feds Still Unable To Share Information, Experts Argue

A bipartisan group recommends improving government efforts in areas like national defense, energy security, bio-defense, health care, and cybersecurity.

The government still hasn't learned how to share information and must do so for the sake of national security, according to a new report.

The Markle Foundation Task Force on National Security in the Information Age, a bipartisan group of former policy makers and technology and national security experts, released a report Tuesday titled "Nation At Risk: Policymakers Need Better Information To Protect The Country."

As its title suggests, the report describes the deficiencies of government information-sharing efforts and calls for new government-wide policies to make information sharing happen.

"Today, we are still vulnerable to attack because -- as on 9/11 -- we are still not able to connect the dots," the report warns. "At the same time, civil liberties are at risk because we don't have the government-wide policies in place to protect them as intelligence collection has expanded."

Information sharing is not only important to defend against terrorism, the report argues, it can also improve government efforts in areas like energy security, bio-defense, health care, and cybersecurity.

In order for government information sharing to succeed, the report says that strong leadership from the top is required.

"While initial steps by the new administration are commendable and promising, President Obama, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, Attorney General Eric Holder, and the new Congress must provide strong, sustained leadership to reaffirm information sharing as a top priority," the report states. "A waning sense of urgency in the seven years since the 9/11 attacks means that old habits of withholding information are returning."

That message was also heard at a federal cybersecurity hearing held Tuesday by the House Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity, Science, and Technology. Those offering testimony at the hearing repeatedly urged the White House to take the lead in implementing the many cybersecurity recommendations that have been made but not implemented over the years.

"The previous two decades have seen countless reports from America's thought leaders in cybersecurity," said U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., the subcommittee chairperson, at the hearing. "What has been lacking is the courage and leadership to actually implement these recommendations."

In about a month, a 60-day review of U.S. cybersecurity policy should be completed and presented to the Obama administration. It will likely include ... more recommendations.

InformationWeek will highlight innovative government IT organizations in an upcoming issue. Nominate your agency by submitting an essay on your most innovative IT initiative completed in the last year. Find out more, and nominate your organization by May 1.

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