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Background and the Current Environment

One clear lesson of September 11 was the need to improve the sharing of information. To prevent further attacks and to protect the homeland, we need to stay a step ahead of those individuals and organizations intent upon harming America. Key to preventing future attacks is the gathering of information about terrorist risks and threats and then ensuring that the information gets into the hands of those whose responsibility it is to protect our communities and critical infrastructure. In the past six years, we have achieved significant accomplishments in our efforts to improve information sharing, and we are well positioned in the current environment to build upon those past accomplishments as we move forward.

What has been accomplished since the September 11 attacks?

In the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, our Nation began a historic transformation aimed at preventing future attacks and improving our ability to protect and defend our people and institutions at home and abroad. As a result, we are now better informed of terrorist intentions and plans and better prepared to detect, prevent, and respond to their actions. Improved intelligence collection and analysis have helped paint a more complete picture of the threat, while more information sharing has provided us a greater capacity for coordinated and integrated action.

Through these and other efforts, the United States and its coalition partners have made significant strides against al-Qaida, its affiliates, and others who threaten us. Collaboration and information sharing have helped limit the ability of al-Qaida and like-minded terrorist groups to operate successfully. We have uncovered and eliminated numerous threats to our citizens and to our friends and allies. We have disrupted terrorist plots, arrested operatives, captured or killed senior leaders, and strengthened the capacity of the Nation to confront and defeat our adversaries.

Continuing Challenges

We are engaged in what some have termed "a long war," or a "protracted conflict," and our enemy has proved to be adept at evolving and adapting his tactics. Internationally, al-Qaida remains the most serious threat to the Homeland as its central leaderships continues to plan high impact attacks while pushing others in extremist communities to mimic its efforts and supplement its capabilities. Its leadership is being reconstituted, and new jihadists are being recruited and trained daily. Additionally, the spread of radical internet sites, increasingly aggressive anti-U.S. rhetoric and actions, and the growing number of radical, self-generating cells in Western countries indicate that the radical and violent segment of the West's Muslim population is expanding. As a result, the Untied States will continue to face ideologically committed extremists determined to attack our interests at home and abroad.

Serious challenges lie ahead, including defeating the enemy, denying safe haven, combating violent extremist ideologies, and protecting the homeland. For the foreseeable future, those challenges will continue to be a top priority for the Federal Government on all fronts – intelligence, diplomatic, homeland security, law enforcement, and defense.

While these instruments of our national power are mighty, the nature of the global threat, as well as the emergence of homegrown extremists, require that State, local, and tribal governments incorporate counterterrorism activities as part of their daily efforts to provide emergency and non-emergency services to the public. These partners are now a critical component of our Nation's security capability as both "first preventers" and "first responders," and their efforts have achieved concrete results within their communities, as the following examples illustrate:

To combat and prevent terrorist actions effectively we must first acquire knowledge about their organizations' plans, intentions, and tactics, and then ensure that such knowledge is available to those responsible for preventing and responding to attacks. The Intelligence Community will continue to be a primary source for this information; however, the Intelligence Community must modify its processes and procedures to encompass non-traditional customers at all levels of government with roles in prevention and response. In addition, important information regarding possible attack planning may come from organizations outside the Intelligence Community. Our challenge is to ensure that information from all sources is brought to bear on our efforts to protect our people and infrastructure from terrorist attacks.

Today, the sharing of terrorism-related information takes place within multiple independent sharing environments that serve five communities—intelligence, law enforcement, defense, homeland security, and foreign affairs. Historically, each community developed its own policies, rules, standards, architectures, and systems to channel information to meet mission requirements. These environments were insulated from one another, which resulted in gaps and seams in the sharing of information across all levels of government.

Recognizing these significant challenges, the Congress passed and the President signed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. Among other things, the law called for the creation of the ISE to enable trusted partnerships among all levels of government, the private sector, and our foreign partners, in order to more effectively detect, prevent, disrupt, preempt, and mitigate the effects of terrorism against the territory, people, and interests of the United States. This partnership will enable the trusted, secure, and appropriate exchange of terrorism-related information across the Federal Government, to and from State, local, and tribal governments, foreign allies, and the private sector, and at all levels of security classifications.

Through this Strategy and the use of the ISE we will:

Although the effort to implement the ISE is well underway, it is essential for implementation activities to take place within a broader strategic context. The sections that follow describe in more detail the current environment, the key elements of our National Strategy, and the actions we will take to achieve our vision.

Legislative and Regulatory Background

On August 27, 2004, the President issued two Executive Orders pertinent to this Strategy. Executive Order 13354 established the NCTC as "the primary organization in the United States Government for analyzing and integrating all intelligence possessed or acquired by the United States Government pertaining to terrorism and counterterrorism [with the exception of] purely domestic counterterrorism information." Executive Order 13356 was aimed directly at strengthening the sharing of terrorism information to protect Americans. Specifically, the President directed agencies to give the "highest priority" to the prevention of terrorism and the "interchange of terrorism information [both] among agencies" and "between agencies and appropriate authorities of States and local governments." The President further directed that this improved information sharing be accomplished in ways that "protect the freedom, information
privacy, and other legal rights of Americans."

The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, enacted in December 2004, placed NCTC within the newly created Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The law directed NCTC to "serve as the primary organization in the United States Government for analyzing and integrating all intelligence possessed or acquired by the United States Government pertaining to terrorism and counterterrorism." In addition, NCTC serves as "the central and shared knowledge bank on known and suspected terrorists and international terror groups, as well as their goals, strategies, capabilities, and networks of contacts and support." The NCTC strives to ensure that agencies, as appropriate, receive and have access to the intelligence necessary to perform their counterterrorism missions.

Section 1016 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 directed the establishment of the ISE, which it defined as "an approach that facilitates the sharing of terrorism information." The President was charged to create the ISE, designate its organization and management structure, and determine and enforce the policies and rules to govern the ISE's content and usage. The law further required the ISE be "a decentralized, distributed, and coordinated environment" that "to the greatest extent practicable, … connects existing systems … ; builds upon existing systems capabilities currently in use across the Government; … facilitates the sharing of information at and across all levels of security; … and incorporates protections for individuals' privacy and civil liberties."

In addition, the law required the President designate a Program Manager for the ISE. The role of the Program Manager is to manage the ISE, oversee its implementation, assist in the development of ISE standards and practices, and monitor and assess its implementation by Federal departments and agencies. The law also established an Information Sharing Council to advise the President and the Program Manager on the development of ISE policies, procedures,
guidelines, and standards, and to ensure proper coordination among Federal departments and agencies participating in the ISE.

Accordingly, the President designated the Program Manager and directed that the Program Manager and his staff be located in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. On October 25, 2005, the President issued Executive Order 13388, superseding Executive Order 13356, to facilitate the work of the Program Manager, expedite the establishment of the ISE, and restructure the Information Sharing Council.

On December 16, 2005, in accordance with section 1016 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, the President issued a Memorandum to Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies prescribing the guidelines and requirements in support of the creation and implementation of the ISE. In the December Memorandum, the President directed that the ISE be established by building upon "existing Federal Government policies, standards, procedures, programs, systems, and architectures (collectively "resources") used for the sharing and integration of and access to terrorism-related information, and … leverage those resources to the maximum extent practicable, with the objective of establishing a decentralized, comprehensive, and coordinated environment for the sharing and integration of such information." He also directed the heads of executive departments and agencies to "actively work to create a culture of information sharing within their respective departments or agencies by assigning personnel and dedicating resources to terrorism-related information sharing, by reducing disincentives to such sharing, and by holding their senior managers accountable for improved and increased sharing of such information."

The President's Memorandum also included five specific guidelines designed to advance the development and implementation of the ISE.

On November 16, 2006, pursuant to the President's delegation of authority, the Director of National Intelligence submitted to the Congress a report containing the Implementation Plan for the Information Sharing Environment. The ISE Implementation Plan, among other things, delineates how the President's guidelines and requirements will be implemented by drawing upon recommendations developed pursuant to those guidelines. The plan contains descriptions of the functions, capabilities, resources, and conceptual design of the ISE, a plan for deploying and operating the ISE, and a process for measuring implementation progress and performance. The plan, which is available on the Program Manager's website (, was developed through a collaborative effort among the Program Manager and the member organizations of the Information Sharing Council. It also incorporates the perspectives of representatives from State, local, and tribal governments who reviewed the ISE Implementation Plan Report during its development. Since the Plan's submission to the Congress, many of its action items have been implemented.

Most recently, the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, enacted in August of this year, included amendments to section 1016 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 and to the Homeland Security Act of 2002. The new law expands the scope of the ISE to explicitly include homeland security information and weapons of mass destruction information. It also endorses and formalizes many of the recommendations developed in response to the President's information sharing guidelines, such as the creation of the Interagency Threat Assessment and Coordination Group, and the development of a national network of State and major urban area fusion centers.

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