General Accounting Office warns of XML pitfalls

General Accounting Office warns of XML pitfalls

Incomplete standards for using Extensible Markup Language and the lack of uniform, government-specific data structures are some potential pitfalls awaiting agencies that want to use XML, according to a General Accounting Office report released today.

Although the document tagging language is technically mature, the immaturity of business standards for vocabulary and data interchange are less advanced, GAO said in “Electronic Government: Challenges to Effective Adoption of the Extensible Markup Language.” There’s still the possibility for “proprietary extensions to be built that would defeat XML’s goal of broad interoperability,” the report said.

Agencies face four other XML challenges, according to the report:

  • There is no explicit governmentwide strategy for XML adoption, which could make it impossible for agencies’ XML systems to talk to each other in the future.

  • No consolidated set of government XML requirements is ready to present to standards-setting bodies.

  • There is no registry of XML data structures, although an interagency working group is developing one.

  • XML implementation needs to be adapted to enterprise architectures.


  • GAO recommended that the director of the Office of Management and Budget oversee federal planning for XML adoptions. The accounting office reviewed XML development standards and related agency challenges in response to a request from Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs.


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