Navy preps XML policy

The Navy Department is finishing a policy that, for the first time, will set standards for the Navy's use of Extensible Markup Language as it attempts to put more of its applications and data online.

Navy chief information officer David Wennergren said he expects to sign the final policy this week.

The document, which has been widely circulated within the department, will set the standard for how XML will be used within the service so that XML-tagged data is fully interoperable servicewide. The policy will outline how the Navy will implement XML to better find, retrieve, process and exchange data.

Navy officials said they want sailors and officers to be able to send out all information, anywhere, anytime, but this has been difficult, with disparate systems and applications spread throughout the service. XML facilitates information exchange among applications and systems because it enables agencies to tag data and documents.

"The Department of the Navy deals with thousands of contracts from different companies that will be producing a majority of the XML content," said Michael Jacobs, chairman of the Navy's XML Working Group. "It will be up to us to manage its implementation, governance, structure and procedures."

The overall goals of the policy are to promote XML as an enabling technology to help achieve enterprise interoperability Navy-wide and serve as a guideline to support interoperability between the Navy and other DOD components.

Jacobs said five teams would have a different responsibility in determining the best way to begin implementing the policy (see box). However, a timeline has yet to be established for when XML deployment across the Navy would be completed.

The Navy's XML standard, which also applies to the Marine Corps, already is receiving high marks from other government XML leaders.

"I read their policy document and found it to be excellent and comprehensive — the best I have seen in the federal government, or anywhere for that matter," said Brand Niemann, a computer scientist and XML Web services solutions architect with the Environmental Protection Agency. Niemann also heads the XML Web Services Working Group established by the CIO Council.

Niemann said it's unusual for any agency as large as the Navy to have a comprehensive policy regarding XML deployment, and that other agencies should follow the Navy's lead. "There aren't many policies that come from the top down like this one," he said. "I've been saying that, to facilitate and support [e-government], there needs to be a clear policy from on high and knowledgeable people to carry it out."

Owen Ambur, co-chairman of the XML Working Group and XML expert for the Fish and Wildlife Service, said that the group plans to incorporate the Navy's ideas, "along with those of the EPA and others, in an updated and enhanced version of the XML Developers Guide."

***

Navy's XML squad

The Navy has five teams with different responsibilities in determining the best way to implement the new policy:

* The strategic vision team.

* The standard implementation team.

* The enterprise implementation team.

* The marketing and outreach team.

* The unnamed fifth team, which will work on integrating the acquisition and budgeting requirements.

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