DHS intelligence chief seeks improved information sharing
Charles Allen looks to raise department’s profile in larger intelligence community.
The Homeland Security Department's new chief intelligence officer Wednesday outlined his priorities before Congress, saying he would strengthen the department's intelligence capabilities to raise its profile in the larger intelligence community.
Charles Allen, a CIA operative since 1998, joined the department three weeks ago to become its first chief intelligence officer.
Allen's post became official Tuesday when President Bush signed into law the fiscal 2006 Homeland Security spending bill, which established the position and its budget for the new fiscal year that began Oct. 1. Chertoff proposed the new position in July as part of his reorganization plan.
Richard Ben-Veniste, a former 9/11 Commissioner, said in written testimony that it was a mistake not to have the Senate confirm Allen. "Under the secretary's proposed reorganization, there is no official below the level of the secretary with department-wide intelligence responsibilities who would be confirmed by, and accountable to, Congress," said Ben-Veniste.
Allen told lawmakers during a joint hearing with two House subcommittees that Chertoff has put him in charge of a new intelligence and analysis wing to collect and disseminate information across the department and down to state and local officials.
"That means the secretary is counting on me to marshal all the intelligence and information in Homeland Security's component agencies and deliver it to him in a way that he can use to make timely, risk-based decisions about how to deploy the department's human and material resources," Allen said.
His first priority, he said, is bolstering the department's intelligence gathering to become fully involved in the intelligence community.
Since the department's inception three years ago, Homeland Security officials have struggled to obtain information and authority from other turf-conscious intelligence agencies like the FBI and CIA.
Congress sought to address the problem of "information sharing" between agencies and state and local officials by creating the new national intelligence director position last year.
On Thursday, Allen said Homeland Security officials would contribute "as a nexus for integration and coordination between domestic and foreign intelligence."
Allen also said he would form a council of intelligence heads from the various Homeland Security agencies.
Intelligence units must improve operations by building interconnected databases as other agencies in the larger intelligence community are doing, Allen said.
While maintaining that he needs about six months to better know where the department is headed, Allen said Scott Charbo, the department's chief information officer, will be working with him on building a central database and another tool that would allow state and local officials to link up to the department's databases.
DHS has individual databases that are very good, but "we don't have the interoperability," among them, Allen said. It would be premature to predict how that will be accomplished, he added.
Daniel Pulliam contributed to this report.
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