NIEM releases first draft of info-sharing specs

The first release of the National Information Exchange Model is now available.

“Now this is real,” said Michael Daconta, metadata program manager for the Homeland Security Department. Daconta encouraged agencies to have their IT staff examine this draft of NIEM, dubbed Version 0.1, to see if they “can build a message from these specifications.”

Daconta, along with James Feagans, the Justice Department’s enterprise data architect and program manager for NIEM, presented an outline of the model at the Storage to Knowledge conference this week sponsored by PostNewsweek Tech Media, which publishes GCN.

NIEM is an Extensible Markup Language-based schemata that could be used by different agencies to share information. By encoding their information within a standardized set of metadata, agencies could make their resources more easily accessible to other agencies.

Although designed for information exchange, Daconta recommended that even if an agency is developing a new internal schema, it should look into using as many of the elements as possible, because the agency may not know whether it will need to share that information in the future.

A collaboration between DHS and Justice, the NIEM effort was launched in February. NIEM uses Justice’s Global Justice XML Data Model as the foundation, but is being expanded to cover common items of interest beyond the criminal justice committee. After the release of Version 1.0 of NIEM, scheduled for June 2006, the Global GXDM may be subsumed as one specific domain model within NIEM, Daconta said.

Available as a zipped download, NIEM is a collection of 54 schema files, along with a spreadsheet describing the collection. The package includes schemas for two of NIEM’s core namespaces: universal and common. Universal types are data structures that should be of use for every agency schema. These structures can be used to describe things like organizations, property, people and units of measurements. Common types are structures that many agencies may use, such as alerts, documents, aircraft, boats and vehicles.

The package also includes details on the Justice namespace, including structures for alerts, court procedures, criminal evidence and other elements familiar to the law enforcement and legal communities. Future releases of NIEM will include additional domain-specific schemata, which may be created by teams of agencies that frequently share data.

The deadline for feedback for the next iteration, 0.2, is Oct. 25, according to the Web site. In addition to NIEM schemata, the team will also deliver set of tools, as well as a set of naming and design rules. The group will also develop a governance structure that will help manage the collaborations and input from participating agencies, Feagans said.

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