Post-Hearing Question From the May 8, 2003, Hearing on Barriers to Information Sharing at the Department of Homeland Security

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2003-07-07.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

United States General Accounting Office
Washington, DC 20548

          July 7, 2003

          The Honorable Tom Davis
          Chairman, Committee on Government Reform
          House of Representatives

          Subject: Post-hearing Question From the May 8, 2003, Hearing on Barriers to
                   Information Sharing at the Department of Homeland Security

          Dear Mr. Chairman:

          As requested, this letter provides our response for the record to the question posed
          by Representative Michael Turner to GAO, in your letter of June 13, 2003.

                 The GAO recently released a report on the sharing of terrorist watch lists
                 between federal, state, and local agencies (GAO-03-322). 1 The report
                 discussed the importance of an enterprise architecture that served all
                 agencies’ needs. The report went on to discuss the role of database
                 architectures as an integral component of the overall enterprise architecture.
                 Specifically, the report pointed out the problems encountered unless data is
                 consolidated as opposed to relying on decentralized databases. The report
                 recommends that the agencies move to consolidate these watch lists.

                 While your report is specific to terrorist watch lists, I am interested in
                 whether you believe that the Department of Homeland Security should also
                 be consolidating other “stovepiped” databases in order to enable the
                 correlation of relationships in that data that can point to developing threats.
                 Can you comment on this?

          Standardizing and consolidating stovepiped databases can offer significant benefits.
          In particular, it can help reduce or eliminate duplicative data capture and storage and
          enable faster data access and better data consistency, which can reduce costs as well
          as improve data reliability and sharing. Analyzing these benefits in relation to
          associated costs and risks, such as security and privacy, provides a basis for informed
          decisions about not only consolidation but also the appropriate level of
          consolidation. Effective development of enterprise architectures provides for
          performing such analysis.

          U.S. General Accounting Office, Information Technology: Terrorist Watch Lists Should Be
          Consolidated to Promote Better Integration and Sharing, GAO-03-322 (Washington, D.C.: April 15,

                                                    GAO-03-985R: Consolidated Databases Questions
In the case of federal watch lists, we identified indicators (such as the number and
variability of the lists and the commonality of their purposes) of opportunities to
consolidate and standardize. Consequently, we recommended that the Department of
Homeland Security determine the extent of watch list consolidation needed to
accomplish its mission and that such consolidation be done as part of the
department’s efforts to develop an enterprise architecture.

We believe this approach—analyzing information and data needs and solutions within
the context of an enterprise architecture—is also necessary to determine the extent
to which all existing systems of the department’s 22 component agencies should be
standardized and consolidated. In fact, during the subject hearing, the department’s
chief information officer testified that it plans to develop and use an enterprise
architecture to guide its systems consolidation and integration. He stated that the
department plans to issue the enterprise architecture by the fall of 2003.

If you have any questions concerning this information, please contact me at (202)
512-3439 or hiter@gao.gov, or Gary Mountjoy, Assistant Director, at (202) 512-6367 or

Sincerely yours,

Randolph C. Hite
Director, Information Technology Architecture
 and Systems Issues


Page 2                             GAO-03-985R: Consolidated Databases Questions
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