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

GAO-03-985R: Published: Jul 7, 2003. Publicly Released: Jul 7, 2003.

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Randolph C. Hite
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This letter provides GAO's response for the record to the question posed by Congress concerning whether GAO believes that the Department of Homeland Security should consolidate databases in order to enable the correlation of relationships in that data that can point to developing threats.

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. 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.

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