Data Sharing

DHS seeks to bridge siloed databases

visa stamps

The Department of Homeland Security plans to connect databases containing information on legal foreign visitors as a prototype of a system to consolidate identity information from agency sources. The prototype is a first step in what could turn into comprehensive records overhaul that would erase lines between the siloed databases kept by DHS component agencies.

Currently, DHS personnel can access information from across component databases under the "One DHS" policy, but access can be hindered by the need to log into multiple systems and make multiple queries. The Common Entity Index (CEI) prototype pulls biographical information from DHS component agencies and correlates the data into a single comprehensive record. The CEI prototype is designed to find linkages inside source data – names and addresses as well as unique identifiers like passport and alien registration numbers – and connect the dots automatically, so DHS personnel do not have to.

DHS is trying to determine whether it is feasible to create "a centralized index of select biographic information that will allow DHS to provide a consolidated and correlated record, thereby facilitating and improving DHS's ability to carry out its national security, homeland security, law enforcement, and benefits missions," according to a notice in the Aug. 23 Federal Register.

The planned prototype will launch with data from the Electronic System for Travel Authorization maintained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System kept by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Alien Flight Student Program of the Transportation Security Administration, which monitors non-citizens who enroll in aviation training. DHS picked these datasets because they covered potentially overlapping information that is produced by different sub-agencies. The prototype will ingest data from the covered sources and produce a new set of dynamic records with their own metadata tying each entry back to its original database. Updates to the source databases will update the correlated record in the CEI.

During testing, the CEI prototype will only be tapped for routine use, not for law enforcement-related information sharing. DHS is accepting comments on the plan through Sept. 23.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy, health IT and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mr. Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian started his career as an arts reporter and critic, and has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, Architect magazine, and other publications. He was an editorial assistant and staff writer at the now-defunct New York Press and arts editor at the About.com online network in the 1990s, and was a weekly contributor of music and film reviews to the Washington Times from 2007 to 2014.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


Rising Stars

Meet 21 early-career leaders who are doing great things in federal IT.

Featured

  • SEC Chairman Jay Clayton

    SEC owns up to 2016 breach

    A key database of financial information was breached in 2016, possibly in support of insider trading, said the Securities and Exchange Commission.

  • Image from Shutterstock.com

    DOD looks to get aggressive about cloud adoption

    Defense leaders and Congress are looking to encourage more aggressive cloud policies and prod reluctant agencies to embrace experimentation and risk-taking.

  • Shutterstock / Pictofigo

    The next big thing in IT procurement

    Steve Kelman talks to the agencies that have embraced tech demos in their acquisition efforts -- and urges others in government to give it a try.

  • broken lock

    DHS bans Kaspersky from federal systems

    The Department of Homeland Security banned the Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab’s products from federal agencies in a new binding operational directive.

  • man planning layoffs

    USDA looks to cut CIOs as part of reorg

    The Department of Agriculture is looking to cut down on the number of agency CIOs in the name of efficiency and better communication across mission areas.

  • What's next for agency cyber efforts?

    Ninety days after the Trump administration's executive order, FCW sat down with agency cyber leaders to discuss what’s changing.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group