Justice shares its XML

Global Justice XML Data Model

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Homeland Security Department officials plan to adopt the Justice Department's Extensible Markup Language data model to improve data sharing among agencies responsible for homeland security.

By using a proven and flexible XML data model, federal, state, local and tribal government agencies that are upgrading or developing new computer systems will be able to save billions of dollars and reduce the risk of failure, DHS and Justice officials said last week.

Officials from both agencies announced they will team up on an initiative called Collaboration on Objects for Reuse and Exchange to extend the data model that the law enforcement community uses to agencies with emergency management, border security and other homeland-related responsibilities.

XML is a structured language for describing data in documents that can be electronically transmitted among otherwise incompatible systems. It's a translator that makes interoperability among systems and agencies possible.

Vance Hitch, Justice's chief information officer, said the perspectives of DHS officials and their state and local constituents will enrich the National Information Exchange Model, the data model previously known as the Global Justice XML Data Model.

"Instead of building things on the fly just the way we would have done it, or just the way DHS would have done it, it'll be expressed to the whole group," Hitch said. And one standard will apply to all new data elements that are created, he said.

During the next few weeks, DHS officials will choose projects to include in the data model.

Harlin McEwen, a former police chief who now represents the International Association of Chiefs of Police, said state, local and tribal agencies and even industry officials are seeking national leadership and guidelines on overcoming technical barriers to interoperability. McEwen said that although funding is always an issue, educating law enforcement and other government officials about the data model and what it can do for them is even more important.

"Sheriffs and chiefs don't understand this," McEwen said. However, he said federal funds are tied to a requirement that any new systems must be compatible with Justice's XML data model.

Nationwide, more than 50 information-sharing projects use the data model, officials said.

Steve Cooper, DHS' CIO, said the DHS and Justice partnership signals a new level of trust among federal agencies. "The Department of Homeland Security is trusting and accepting and using the work done by the Department of Justice ...to move this country where we need to go," he said.

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