DHS, Justice work on XML

Global Justice XML Data Model

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"Value add?"

Homeland Security and Justice department officials have a new partnership to enhance development of an Extensible Markup Language model that could save federal, state, local and tribal agencies billions of dollars as they improve their computer systems to share information with one another.

Officials said this represents a significant step in broadening the use of the Global Justice XML Data Model, which was started about three years ago, across the federal government. It could mean future partnerships with other departments, such as Transportation and Health and Human Services, and the intelligence community, which used the model as the basis for a schema to share the terrorism watch list.

The partnership could provide the leadership for further deployment of the XML data model among state, local and tribal law enforcement, public safety, and emergency management agencies, which are desperately seeking federal guidance, several officials said.

XML is essentially an open standard or translator that systems can use to communicate with one another. More than 50 justice information-sharing projects are using the data model. Development of the core model would ensure long-term stability of the model and ensure that early efforts in its use are not wasted, officials said.

"This was a no-brainer," said Vance Hitch, the Justice Department's chief information officer, referring to the partnership during a Feb. 28 briefing.

Partnering with DHS, he said, would prevent fragmentation of XML standards, create a unified strategy for data sharing and interoperability, support strategies for counterterrorism plans, enhance consistent information sharing activities across state, local and tribal agencies, and provide those organizations with technical assistance and training.

Steve Cooper, DHS' CIO, said department officials considered something similar to the data model but realized that a separate standard would have made no sense. It took some time for DHS employees to get comfortable with the idea that the Justice model was useful, Cooper said.

"Those of us inside the Department of Homeland Security had to step up and accept that we have federal colleagues and state and local colleagues who do know what they're doing, have done the right thing on behalf of this country, and we're not going to second guess them inside the Department of Homeland Security," he said.

Within several weeks, federal officials said they will choose several DHS projects, such as border security or emergency management projects, as tests for the data model. The information-sharing initiative is called the Collaboration on Objects for Reuse and Exchange, and the data model will be called the National Information Exchange Model.

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