Data model changes coming

Official comments on the recently released data reference model of the federal enterprise architecture say the current document lacks information on areas that include privacy, security and data governance, said Michael Daconta, Homeland Security Department's metadata program manager.

Office of Management and Budget officials made Daconta the technical lead of a working group for revising and completing the data reference model (DRM) in late December. Homeland Security is the pilot agency for full DRM implementation, although it is the actual owner of the model.

"We have a lot of skin in the game of information sharing," said Daconta, speaking this morning at an Industry Advisory Council breakfast.

OMB officials released the first of five data reference model volumes in late October.

Some agency officials criticized parts of the models as ambiguous, particularly in outlining differences between "business area" and "supertype," Daconta said.

"There was a lot of confusion related to that," he said.

Daconta's entire group is slated to meet for the first time on Feb. 7. He hopes it will issue a revised version of volume 1 in August. "We clearly intend this to be a working group, not just observers," Daconta said.

Interested federal officials should contact Susan Turnbull, senior advisor, office of intergovernmental solutions at the General Services Administration.

Group members will also address the next steps for the reference model, including examining whether content of the next four volumes needs reorganizing, Daconta said. He believes the group should "produce more cohesive volumes along functional lines, like one volume on description of data, one volume on information sharing."

Security and privacy information would be addressed within each volume.

Daconta wants to issue the remaining DRM volumes simultaneously, although much depends on the number of participants in the group. Draft versions ideally would be finished by February 2006 and the final versions ready one year later, Daconta said.

The group will also examine the possibility of producing three guides for implementing the reference model, with each guide based on a different level of technology maturation. Although the reference model itself is technology agnostic, its implementation still depends on technology.

The implementation profiles will focus on current technology environment, Extensible Markup Language (XML) and projected future developments in semantic Web technology. The latter two implementation profiles will likely be developed in conjunction with already-established XML and semantic Web federal communities of practice. As with the additional volumes, timelines for producing these documents depends on working group participation, but Daconta said he wants to have initial drafts ready by August 2006 and final versions by August 2007.

The group will also debate the future of the data management strategy, which is still a draft document even though OMB officials originally planned to release it almost immediately after issuing the first volume of the DRM. "I don't know how much [the strategy] adds," Daconta said.

Integrating state and local governments into the federal data-sharing construct is a topic that also needs to be addressed, Daconta said. Because the DRM is meant to work in connection with the other four reference models of the federal enterprise architecture, state and local governments may not be able to use the DRM "straight out of the box," Daconta said. But "in terms of the principles of categorization, exchange and context, those are universal principles that can be extensible," he added.

Members of the CIO Council say they will monitor the progress of the DRM working group as a test case for whether the process generated there could be used to update all five reference models. OMB officials asked last fall members of the council's Architecture and Infrastructure committee to devise a governance process for reference model revision.

"We wanted to be able to use the governance process we're putting in place for all of the models and use it specially for the DRM since it had be vetted for comment anyway," Kim Nelson, co-chairwoman of the infrastructure committee and chief information officer of the Environmental Protection Agency, recently told Federal Computer Week.

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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