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Mis Case Study Chp 7-Homeland Security

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Case Study: Ch. 7

Database Woes Plague Homeland Security and Law Enforcement


It is important to connect as much of the data in many of the federal, state, and local information systems because it will help stop future attacks and events to happen to the United States. After September 11, the federal government created a new cabinet called the homeland security. The cabinet has a database of thousands of federal, state and local organizations. They collect as much of the information necessary to combat future terrorist attacks as well as fight domestic crime. Bringing together this information to make them useful for fighting terrorism and crime is provided to be an immense task. Ben Gianni, the vice president of the homeland security of computer sciences corporation, says, “We must do this in order for these agencies to collect, analyze and disseminate information about suspected terrorist activities.”


Bringing data together from all different organizations is a major data management problem. One of the most important pieces of data is to tack terrorist activity through these three organizations, the Immigration Naturalization Service (INS), Customs, and the Coast Guard. All three collect and store data on people and products that enter the United States. Bringing some of those data together would be useful for defending the country. However, these organizations have many databases, most of which are old and have been created independently. They have different computing platforms, data names, data definitions, data sizes, and data files. This is a problem that many global corporations have been addressing for years. Many are managing to interconnect their multitude of data systems, but it has been both time consuming and very costly. The FBI culture has been a mind-set to keep information to itself, a problem highlighted by and after 9/11. New York’s senator Charles Schumer said, “One of the worst kept secrets in law enforcement is the chronic lack of communications between federal and local authorities.”

Some basic problems are first the data are stored in many different databases even within single agencies. Since the past, software systems within the government and corporate organizations have been developed independently, servicing only specific unit’s needs. The databases in such independently developed systems that are usually

incompatible. Also the same data in different systems, even within the same organization, usually have different codes, names, and formats.

Next problem is who is allowed to see what data and who is restricted from seeing the data? What data are classified or non-classified and if they are classified what levels of classification? These are all questions that need to be answered in order to keep the information secret and protected. Also agents required security clearances to access much of the data, but the security clearance often took up to eight months to obtain.

The FBI is buried under an immense amount of paperwork and continues to use paperwork as its chief information management tool. Robert Mueller, the FBI director, says, “It is no secret that our information infrastructure is behind current technology.” The FBI can search in there computer database words such as flight and school but they cannot search for phrases such as flight school, combining the two words, so this process takes more time and work to search for important information fast and to track and stop potential terrorist and their activities.


The management, organization, and technology issues all need to be addressed to make these data easily available to those who need it. First the management issue with the paperwork as

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