Duplicative fusion center servers create reporting gaps, finds GAO


As part of the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative, fusion centers gain access to suspicious activity reports using the Justice Department's Shared Spaces servers and the Federal Bureau of Investigation's eGuardian system--a practice the Government Accountability Office says presents overlapping services.

Because the tools overlap, federal, state and local reporters are likely to log information on just one server, rather than both. Fusion centers have the option to submit reports to Shared Spaces only, to eGuardian only, or to both Shared Spaces and eGuardian.

According to GAO, of the 74 fusion centers, three submit reports through Shared Spaces only and not to eGuardian, and 23 centers submit to Shared Spaces in all cases and to eGuardian on a case-by-case basis.

Two servers are used in an effort to help fusion centers meet privacy requirements and facilitate the FBI's investigative needs, find report authors. However, many fusion centers default to not sharing reports with the FBI's system, and share information with the FBI via phone, email or fax.

Officials at one fusion center said they use DOJ's Shared Spaces because it allows them to remove suspicious activity reports at their discretion, thus removing it from federated search and complying with their privacy policy.

Officials with the FBI told auditors they're satisfied with the use of two servers but would like Shared Spaces to automatically share information with eGuardian, just as all information reported to eGuardian is posted to Shared Spaces.

Technical solutions do exist, allowing reporters submitting information to Shared Spaces to simultaneously submit to eGuardian. However, DOJ has not formally tested the exchange of information between the two systems to ensure that the exchanges are complete, say report authors.

Among other recommendations for workforce training and schedule improvements included in the report, auditors recommend that DOJ mitigate risks from supporting two systems. They should collect and share reports that may result in the FBI not receiving needed information, says GAO. The department agreed with report recommendations.

For more:
- download the report, GAO-13-233 (.pdf)

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