Info-sharing models under development

Federal Enterprise Architecture Program Management Office

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The Office of Homeland Security's enterprise architecture team is rapidly developing several models for information sharing for use by agencies involved in homeland security.

The models will help agencies detail specifics of how systems need to connect and exchange data.

The creation of the models — also called architecture products or artifacts — brings the 22 agencies and offices tapped to move into the proposed Homeland Security Department one step closer to becoming a single cohesive organization, experts say.

Working groups are developing four models for use in key mission areas: border and transportation security, intelligence and warnings, emergency preparedness and response, and defending against catastrophic events.

By the end of this month, the architecture working groups under the direction of Lee Holcomb, director of infostructure at the Office of Homeland Security, plan to complete the first drafts of the four models.

The entire team is under pressure to have at least a basic architecture together by the beginning of next year, when the proposed department is expected to be established, Holcomb said.

The models will help the working groups define the look of the architecture for the proposed department and then determine how existing systems can be folded into that architecture. To facilitate this process, agencies will fill in a template with the details about their resources and the functions they currently perform.

The final product will look different for each mission area because the information in each will be different. However, all models will be interoperable because they were built within the same structure.

Analyzing the gaps between the existing and future architectures is the key to enterprise architecture, and "doing these types of activity diagrams and matrices is part of that analysis," said Robert Handler, senior program director for enterprise architecture strategies at META Group Inc. "The fact that they're developing the artifacts is a good thing, but the artifacts need to be used, the value of them needs to be demonstrated."

The models are based on the Defense Department's Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Architecture Framework.

Team members chose to use that model because DOD is the furthest along when it comes to enterprise architecture, but they selected and adapted the four models with the most applicability to civilian homeland security, according to Amy Wheelock, chief of the investment management branch at the Immigration and Naturalization Service and co-chairwoman of the border and transportation security working group.

Until legislation is passed that describes the organization and functions of the proposed department, the enterprise architecture team can go only so far, Wheelock said. Until the final mission and structure are defined, there is no way to complete the details of the new architecture.

But the models will help lay the groundwork because they are being developed from the perspective of the end user. Developers are determining what a front-line responder, such as a Border Patrol officer, needs and then figuring out what infrastructure is necessary to provide that information. At the deputy secretary level, officials at the agencies slated to move to the proposed department will scrutinize all of the models, Holcomb said.

This mission-oriented approach is important, according to Norman Lorentz, chief technology officer at the Office of Management and Budget. "Technology is in no way a barrier," he said. "It is an extraordinary enabler — once we figure out what the heck it is we want to do."

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A foundation for sharing information

The Office of Homeland Security is developing four architecture models to outline how missions, information and systems need to work together within the proposed Homeland Security Department:

* High-level concept of operations — Sets the big-picture view of the proposed department's mission, based on business practices.

* Activity tree — Illustrates the relationships among the business and mission processes within the proposed department by outlining the steps involved in performing each function.

* Node connectivity diagram — Outlines the policy connections and data interfaces among the individual operational nodes, such as Border Patrol officers, emergency preparedness workers or military facilities, across mission areas.

* Information exchange matrix — Describes how information flows between operational nodes by identifying the information required to perform a function, who is exchanging the information and how it is exchanged.

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