Open architectures key to info sharing

Building architectures designed for information sharing is the key to ensuring that the Defense Department, the Homeland Security Department (DHS) and the intelligence community can collaborate with one another and their industry partners, according to a panel of experts.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Harry Raduege Jr., director of the Defense Information Systems Agency, said the first task in building such an architecture is defining the enterprise to be served and determining who manages it. In the case of DOD and DHS, that often includes dozens of federal agencies as well as state, local and industry partners.

Alan Wade, chief information officer at the CIA, agreed and said that once those decisions are made, it takes more than interoperable online collaboration tools to achieve the goal.

"We need to build architectures for information sharing...at the unclassified level," Wade said during a May 6 panel at the AFCEA International conference in Washington, D.C. "The hope is that when we have architectures that make sense to us, we can vet them with industry [and commercial products] to get the interoperability we need."

The gains made in instant messaging tools supporting DOD and intelligence users during wartime and other contingencies are one example of how the government and industry have worked together to overcome the information-sharing challenge, he said.

"Industry's goal is as open an architecture as possible," said Brian Dailey, senior vice president of Washington operations at Lockheed Martin Corp. "That's necessary to make systems as flexible and adaptable to the needs of the mission."

In addition to information sharing, he said there are three other private-sector priorities for communicating with government agencies in an emergency:

* Establishing common standards, requirements and processes.

* Liability protection.

* Privacy issues, especially for databases that contain information on citizens.

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