DOD adds XML resource

DOD memo

The Defense Department plans to use an Extensible Markup Language clearinghouse developed in-house to help it standardize XML components and encourage interoperability across the department.

DOD chief information officer John Stenbit said in an April 22 memo that developing a single clearinghouse and registry for creating, finding, reusing and identifying XML components would "support interoperability and minimize overhead." Pete Aldridge, undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, also signed the memo.

XML enables agencies to "tag" data and documents so it is easier to exchange information among applications and systems. A registry provides standard definitions of those XML tags.

The DOD policy is the first to establish an XML registry and clearinghouse, said Defense Information Systems Agency spokeswoman Betsy Flood. However, "it is not a policy that mandates how to use or implement XML," she said. "Services and agencies are developing specific guidelines and are cooperating and coordinating with DISA as they evolve."

The policy is important because it makes XML "visible and therefore available" to users and developers, Flood said. This means it is "easier for developers to reuse XML and components without having to re-invent them. It facilitates sharing of information so XML developers are more aware of who is using XML and how they are using it."

DISA developed the registry in 1999, but this is the first time that the Pentagon has declared the registry as the DOD clearinghouse.

The registry and clearinghouse will be developed "by identifying best practices, establishing partnerships with industry, public interest groups and other governmental activities, and coordinating XML education and outreach," the two-page memo stated.

All program managers who use XML as an interchange format "must register XML components in accordance with procedures established by DISA," according to the memo.

The move was well received. At "a quick glance, it looks good, which is what I would expect in light of DOD [and] DISA's leadership along these lines," said Owen Ambur, co-chairman of the XML Working Group established by the CIO Council.

"I believe it is very much in line with what we're aiming to do with registry services at," he said. "I look forward to continuing to work very closely with DOD toward the establishment of a worldwide set of XML registries that act as one by virtue of compliance with the applicable standards for interoperability."

The XML Working Group, with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, is developing a registry of "inherently governmental" data elements, document type definitions and schemas.

Michael Jacobs, data architecture project leader for the Navy's CIO office, which recently issued a draft XML guide, said the DOD policy is a good first step toward formalizing the DOD XML registration requirements.

"The hard work is yet to come, in the form of the implementation guidance which will flow from the policy," he said.

In an April report, the General Accounting Office said that despite multiple initiatives to define common federal standards and requirements for XML, the lack of central XML guidance could derail interoperability within government.

Every user community must create business standards that provide the vocabulary to perform transactions, GAO officials said, and federal agencies have not come together to define a governmentwide vocabulary.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine,, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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